• Dr. Bill Walker

4 Steps to Achieving Your Unaccomplished Life Goals

“Purpose is an incredible alarm clock.”

Life is meaningless without goals. Our goals give us a direction to move towards and an outcome to work for.

Life goals can include raising responsible, successful children, making a difference in our community, getting that job/career we have always wanted, reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight, or living your life as a faithful follower of God.

A common problem for many of us is not achieving our goals because we give up before we get there. Unexpected things (events/people) happen that move us off the intended course that leads to achieving our goals. Too often, we never get back on the path that leads to the achievement of our desired goals.

When this happens we then are faced with the #1 killer of goals: DISCOURAGEMENT. Discouragement is a goal-destroying word but notice something important - the root word of discouragement is COURAGE. When we get discouraged we lose our courage. The lack of courage usually results in fear.


We fear failure. Nothing about failure feels good. Nothing about failure gives us self-confidence and belief in our self. And so, with this experience of failure and the really bad feelings that go with it, we lose our desire and motivation to try again.

Someone said, “Every time you set a goal that you don’t achieve, you increase your belief that you won’t be able to accomplish it. If you are like most people, if you don’t believe you can do something, you aren’t likely to invest much energy in trying.”

Does this tend to be true for you?


Research on successful goal achievement has found that the more times you try to achieve something, even if you fail, the more likely you are to eventually succeed.

The chances of success increase even more if you are able to identify new strategies for attaining your goals based on your prior failed attempts.

Most helpfully, the goal setting research has identified specific actions you can take to greatly increase your chances of achieving your goals.

Jennice Vilhauer, PhD, professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University, has identified 4 specific steps you can take to greatly increase the chances of achieving your goals.

1. Make sure you have the right goal.

Vilhauer says, 'I once had someone I was working with tell me she wanted to lose weight. This is an extremely common goal and she was objectively somewhat overweight, so I could have taken her goal at face value, but instead I asked her why she wanted to lose weight? "Because I want my boyfriend to love me more and I’m afraid if I don’t he might leave me".

It was apparent she was using her goal of losing weight to solve an unrelated problem. What she really wanted was to feel more loved and secure in her relationship. When people use goals to solve unrelated problems they generally lack the proper motivation to achieve the goals. Before you set any goal, ask yourself: "Why do I want to achieve this?”'

2. Be very specific.

“Many people set goals such as I want to go on vacation or save money. This is a good place to start but in order to be successful you have to get your goal down to a behavioral level where you can take specific actions.”

Ask yourself, “What do I actually need to DO to accomplish my goal? What specific steps do I need to take?”

For example: you want to stop getting doughnuts at Dunkin Donuts every morning. This is an unhealthy habit and costs you $5.00 every day. Make your goal as measureable as possible. So, your goal might be: “I am going to stop getting donuts every morning. I will put the $25 a week I save in a savings account.”

Your goal is now measureable. You either stop getting donuts or you do not. You either have $25 for your savings account every Friday or you do not.

3. Start small.

Starting with the end in mind is an important way to determine what it is you are trying to accomplish and to know whether or not you are on track, according to Dr. Vilhauer. Often times however, the end goal can seem so big that it is overwhelms you and causes you to give up too soon or may even prevent you from starting altogether.

For example, I want to lose 50 pounds by eating healthy and exercising five times a week, is an excellent goal but for most people this seems like a very big challenge. It is important to break down big goals into sub-goals and micro goals. This helps you create actions toward your big picture goals that feel much more doable.

Sub-goals should be focused on small periods of time generally no more than one month at a time. I want to lose 5 pounds in January is a far less daunting goal than focusing on 50 all at once. Then break it down even smaller. I want to lose 1.25 pounds per week. That feels even more doable. You can even create smaller micro goals. In order to lose 1.25 pounds per week I will give up desert, drink water instead of soda every day, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.

The more possible your goal seems, the more likely you are to stick with it. Also, the success you feel by achieving the small goals gives you motivation to keep going. If you stay on target with the small goals, you will eventually get to the big goal finish line.

4. Have a plan for the obstacles.

Dr. Vilhauer says she always tells people that you need two plans to achieve a goal not just one. You have to have a plan for the goal itself and a plan to get around the obstacles to your plan. Even if someone really knows what they want to do and is highly motivated to achieve it, not dealing with the obstacles can self-sabotage the best of intentions. We tend to be creatures of habit and many times the biggest obstacle to change is our current way of doing something, so we need a plan to do it differently.

Spend some time thinking about what the obstacles are to your new goal. If you want to go to the gym three nights a week, but every time you get home from work you turn on the TV and get sucked into the couch, then lose your motivation, plan around the obstacle of going home. Create a plan to get around the obstacle, such as taking your gym clothes to work so you can get to the gym before you go home.

Setting goals and achieving them is the way that we create our life experiences and it is one of the most rewarding things we do.

Don’t back away from a goal just because you haven’t achieved it in the past, remember the more times you try the more likely you are to succeed!



Christianly Speaking

Nothing in this article contradicts the Word of God. God teaches us that we should plan out and think through our endeavors. The Bible says:

“If you wanted to build a building, you would first sit down and decide how much it would cost. You must see if you have enough money to finish the job. 29 If you don’t do that, you might begin the work, but you would not be able to finish. And if you could not finish it, everyone would laugh at you.” (Luke 14:28-29, ERV).

The Bible also says, “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5, NLT).


In all our planning and goal-setting we must not forget this overriding Biblical principle:

“Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3, NLT).