There are few things more detrimental to a person’s self-confidence and motivation than failure to achieve the goals they set for themselves. Yet this is something that happens to countless people every day. In fact, around 20 percent of business startups in the US do not reach the end of their second year. It does not need to be due to a lack of drive, creativity or passion for your project; sometimes the problem can be quite the opposite.

At its core, the inability to achieve is often rooted in our perception of our goals, and our own capabilities. Unrealistic targets, low confidence, and poor planning can all hamper success, yet each of these problems is easily resolved once you have learned to identify it. Here are a few of the most common barriers to success, and the steps you can take to overcome them.

1. Poor Planning

It may seem elementary, but having a clearly defined, well-structured plan is incredibly beneficial. If you go ahead with a project without thinking it through first, you can run into a wide range of obstacles, from unexpected expenses to conflicting ideas, many of which could have been avoided entirely with a little forethought.

Careful planning allows you to set realistic timescales for your work, and begin each day with a clear picture of your objectives. Moreover, the very process of constructing this plan forces you to evaluate each stage in the context of your wider ambition. This means you can develop an accurate picture of the time and resources required, and identify potential problems long before you encounter them.

2. Unrealistic Goals

You may be a young entrepreneur who wants to get rich. And there is nothing wrong with having ambitious targets and demanding schedules, as long as they are achievable. While challenging yourself is a great way to inspire yourself to push your limits a little further, setting impossible goals can have the opposite effect.

Unreachable goals, or goals that are at the very limits of your capability, are likely to result in failure, and this is always discouraging. Even the realization that a target is unattainable can be enough to remove your motivation and diminish your self-confidence.

  • Write out a list of achievable targets with realistic timescales, and keep this close to hand whenever you are working
  • Try not to work on too many goals at once. It will be harder to keep track of your progress and can cause you to feel under more pressure, especially if you begin to fall behind
  • Organize your goals according to their importance, and tackle the most pressing objectives first

3. Unclear Aspirations

It is one thing to have an innovative idea, and quite another to understand how to make it a reality. If you do not have a clear picture of what you are working towards, it becomes far harder to plan your route or remain focused. Your dedication to a project hinges on your investment in its vision, but if the goal is unclear, then your end result may be far from what you had pictured.

  • Define your overall objective, and consider what will be required to fulfill it
  • Set a budget and a timescale, so you can begin to break down your project into reasonable targets
  • Make a list of priorities, and factors on which you are unwilling to compromise. If you find you have conflicting goals, this will help you determine what needs to change
  • Know your motivations. Whenever you define a goal, consider why it is important to you, and how it relates to the project as a whole
  • Regularly review your ideas. As new technology becomes available, trends change, or new ideas come to light, you may need to alter your approach. Constantly look back at your plan, and evaluate whether your goals are still relevant and practical

4. Impatience

When something does not provide instant results, you may feel inclined to abandon it, rather than waiting to see if it gathers momentum. For example, if you have just created a new blog, launched a killer marketing campaign, or carefully optimized all of your digital content, you are probably feeling quite keen to see results. Yet success tends not to happen overnight, and it can take weeks or even months to truly see progress.

  • Give everything a fair chance to work, whether it is a new marketing technique, a labor-saving business tool, or even your first forays into e-commerce
  • Focus on how far you have come, rather than how much farther you have to go
  • Regularly refer back to your plan, and remember the reasoning behind the timescales you set
  • Rather than being discouraged by slow progress, use the time to determine what is holding you back, and how you can improve it


5. Pessimism

It’s no secret that a positive mental attitude can do wonders for your productivity. After all, if you do not believe you can reach your goal, then you may begin to wonder why you are trying at all. As Frank Herbert tells us, “Fear is the mind-killer.” Yet, if you break down your projects into manageable objectives, always referring back to your overarching plan, you have no reason not to believe in your ability to succeed.

It can be tough to remain optimistic if your bounce rate is high, or you are struggling to make online sales, but this is no reason to give up. Use this information to improve your strategy and reinforce your confidence in yourself.

  • If you do not feel like your goals are attainable, ask yourself why, and consider how you can fix the problem
  • When you begin to feel that you are not doing enough, take some time to review how much you have already achieved
  • Take a break if something becomes overwhelming. Either move on to another task, go for a walk or take some time out to refresh your perspective
  • Review your analytics. For example, the data could help you determine where to focus your marketing efforts, and which products receive the most interest from different audiences

6. Inactivity

Naturally, if you do nothing, then nothing will get done. There may be days when it is a struggle to find the words, but often it is better to try to get something written, even if you need to review it later. At least you will have made some progress, which is far better than feeling like you have wasted a day.

  • Inactivity can extend beyond your work. Make sure you leave time in your schedule for other activities
  • Make the most of your breaks. Take yourself out of your work space and do something unconnected to your work
  • Try not to get hung up on minor details. If you cannot resolve it within five minutes, move on and come back to it later
  • Remember to eat. It is easy to get so caught up in your work that you miss meals, or forget to have anything to drink. However, staying hydrated and eating regular meals will help you retain stable energy levels, and remain more alert

7. Fear of Failure

It would be unrealistic to expect every day to go entirely according to plan. There will be times when life gets in the way, and things go awry that you simply could not have predicted. Yet, part of planning for success is accounting for the possibility of failure, and recognizing that it is not the end.

  • If you fail to achieve a goal, identify why this happened, and what you can change to prevent it happening again
  • Embrace each failure as something to be learned from, and make a conscious effort to adjust your working habits accordingly
  • Make a note of anything that doesn’t work out, so you can preempt it in the future
  • Be accountable. Addressing failure means not trying to shift the blame, but accepting that you may need to reevaluate part of your process

By referring to the guidelines above, you can make an immediate difference to your ability to succeed. Yet, whether you are a budding entrepreneur or a veteran of the business world, there will always be more you can do to optimize your working habits. Continuously re-evaluate your goals in line with your achievements, and over time, you will eliminate each of your hindrances, developing positive, productive habits in their stead.

Related reading: 5 Must-Have Traits of Startup Founders.

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