Achieving Goals

Achieving Goals. Psychology Fanatic article header image

We must bend, shift and dodge all those walloping haymakers that life unpredictable throws in our direction. We are goal directed. Our behaviors move us towards a purpose, whether the goal is consciously defined or not. We male plans; we implement structure, and we gather resources with the purpose obtaining or gaining something of worth. We see a destination and chart our path. This is what we do. We can foresee some of the problems that may interfere with goal obtainment but not all. The surrounding environment changes and success for achieving goals depends on our ability to flexibly adapt.

Essential Elements for High Success Rates in Achieving Goals

Successful goal attainment usually begins with certain goal elements.

An effective plan focusses attention on essential work by:

  1. Providing clear direction
  2. Minimizing distractions
  3. Preventing mindless wandering
  4. Forcing accountability (2018)

Without clear direction and forced accountability goals are doomed. We need to clearly know what we are to achieve and know when we are off course. This is problematic because our minds are master manipulators of facts. We fail and pat ourselves on the back for doing a good job. Or, as more often the case, circumstances arise creating unplanned obstacles, and the setbacks provide sufficient excuse to fail. The obstacle creates a convenient excuse to blame for our inability to achieve our goal. In psychology, we refer to this as externalizing.

Once we are clear on our goal and can properly evaluate success and failures, we then can prepare for the unexpected disruptions. We combat unplanned goal interference with flexibility.

Complexity Requires Flexibility

We live in a dynamic world, constantly moving and evolving. Encountering unplanned events is the norm, not a disastrous anomaly of bad luck. Life doesn’t go as planned. Our success in maneuvering around and through the obstacles builds or destroys our futures. Characteristics and values remain steadfast; but behaviors must be flexible. We must redirect focus, re-channeling emotions to adapt to new sets of contexts if we are to successfully navigate the complexity of life.

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Rigid goal adherence may prove fatal. We must retain sufficient flexibility to recognize when the chosen path proves inadequate, and then make appropriate changes. These changes include massive life changes such as divorce, or something routine such as moving from patience to active pursuit and then back to patience. The flexibility allows us to re-channel emotion to act into an appropriate behavior within the current context of the environment.​

Flexibility and Motivation

The concept of flexibility seems simple but the implementation extremely complex, demanding mental resources to discriminate the subtle difference in life demands and opportunities in a wide variety of situations; and then adjust responses to effectively respond.

​Many goals are enjoyed in the comfortable, protected confines of our mind. We bounce the pleasurable thoughts through the pleasure-seeking circuits of the brain, pondering how wonderful it will be to have money, lose the weight, or get married to a specific person. The contemplation perceives no challenge—just the reward. These motivating thoughts are wonderful; but like waves in the sea they hit the beach and eventually dissipate, rolling back to the ocean.

We must ride these motivating waves when they come. T. Franklin Murphy wrote, “If we can solve the motivation issue, most the vexing problems holding us back would vanish” (2021).

But life interferes, once we place our first foot on the path. The strength of the desire is often shaken when the hot emotions of change arrive. Along with change we encounter the frustrations and temptations of an unyielding world that could care less about our new goal. We must shift focus back and forth between the goal and the current environment, re-evaluating plans, adjusting routes and gathering sufficient resources. Sometimes the anticipated joys collapse, and we quit. Oddly, quitting may be an adaptive and appropriate response; other times quickly relinquishing goals hampers our lives and relegates us to a limited existence in an unsatisfying world.

A Few Words by Psychology Fanatic

The skill to properly use flexibility in achieving goals must constantly be nurtured. We improve when we are open to wisdom, learning from the environment, others and painful failures. We gather knowledge throughout life giving the wisdom to know when to stand, when to walk, and when to turn and run. And finally, we are more likely to succeed in achieving our goals when we can accept change—the ebb and flow of existence. Our success follows constant evaluations of our current direction, the surrounding environment, and the willingness to make necessary adjustments.

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Cardone, G. (2018). Your Odds of Succeeding Improve When You Create a Success Plan. Entrepreneur. Published 6-14-2018. Accessed 5-20-2021.

Dawkins, R. (2016). Selfish Gene. Oxford University Press; 4th edition.

Murphy, T. Franklin (2021). Staying Motivated. Psychology Fanatic Published 6-16-2021. Accessed 4-7-2023.

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