The One Reason You’re NOT Failing to Meet Your Goals (and the 5 reasons you are)

Have you ever run in a race?

5K? 10K? Half marathon? Full marathon?

If not, have you ever attended one of these racing events to cheer on a friend or neighbour?

Whatever the distance, think about struggle runners encounter as they journey from the starting line to finish line. They want to run this race — they signed up and agreed to it.

They have the personal motivation. But personal motivation alone isn’t always enough to make them finish.

During the race, several factors work against the runners. Their legs hurt, they’re thirsty, some may have trouble breathing, and others have blisters.

Meanwhile, there are other factors working in favour of the runners. They chose to run the race, people are cheering them on, volunteers are waiting with cups of cold water, and no one is alone — other runners are facing the same obstacles and overcoming them collectively.

Life is the same way. We have things fighting for us and we have things fighting against us.

There are always six sources of influences out there — and they’re either helping you win or they’re acting as obstacles that prevent you from succeeding.

There’s More To Success Than Personal Motivation

First, you need to get the sources of influences on your side so you can win.

The more influences we can get on our side, the more likely we are to change. But, we often make the mistake of assuming the only real source of influence is our own motivation.

That’s simply not true. You could be the most motivated person in the world and still not be able to change.

Take New Year’s Resolutions for example. I’m always motivated on January 1. I think, “I’m going to lose 15 pounds…” which works for about 10 days. On January 11, I’m busting open the ice cream again.

Others say:

  • I’m going to give up smoking… until the stress of work sets in.
  • I’m going to spend less money… until there’s a sale for a limited time only.
  • I’m going to work out more… until the weather stops cooperating.
  • I’m going to read more… until that new Netflix series premiers.

We don’t fail to meet our resolutions because we’re bad people or lack willpower. We fail to change because the other sources of influences are at work.

They either pull for you or against you. And if they’re against us, change becomes almost impossible.

Likewise, others don’t fail to meet our expectations simply because they don’t want to. The six sources of influence are at work for everyone everywhere.

When we ignore the other five sources of influence, we make the fundamental attribution error. We mistakenly assume people do things for only one reason: personal motivation.

We think if we can just convince ourselves to change, if we can curb our own personal motivation, then the battle is won… but it’s not!

In reality, we’re influenced by much more.

What Else Influences Us

We’re influenced by both motivation and ability in the personal, social, and structural spheres.

Look at our running example: In the race, our influence is about more than just “Do I want to finish this race?” There are five other kinds of influence simultaneously affecting whether or not we will actually finish.

Motivation Ability
Personal Do I want to finish this race? Am I able to finish this race? How is your health? Do you have an injury that’s preventing you from finishing?
Social Do others around me want me to finish? Are there fans and friends cheering you on or are you alone? Are others helping me finish? Are volunteers providing water and snacks?
Structural Is it a fun course and race environment? Is there music strategically placed and an encouraging environment for runners? Am I able to navigate the course itself? Is it a flat or hilly course? Do I know where to go or is it not marked clearly?

When you fail to meet your goals and when others fail to meet your expectations, don’t assume the worse. There may be more than personal motivation working in the situation.

If you want to make the undesirable desirable — if you want to finally make the change that’s eluded you so long — you have to zoom out and look at the other sources of influence.

When you start to recognise them and use them to your advantage, you’ll begin to see real change in yourself and your organisation.

Latest Blog Posts

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Improve communication, habits, productivity and more with weekly insights and tips from our authors and experts.

Join our 10,000+ community.