Goal setting: Why so many of us abandon personal and business goals and what you can do about it


You wouldn’t be the first salesperson that’s seen their motivation wane in recent months. Challenging conditions (both economically and logistically) have meant personal and career goals may have fallen by the wayside.

But what about the many years of good intentions that lay behind us? Why haven’t we run that marathon, despite telling ourselves every 12 months that this year is THE year?

Why do we set goals or resolutions that are left by the wayside within months if not weeks?

Well, it’s mainly down to how you set your goals, whether they are genuinely achievable and how you keep yourself motivated when the going gets tough.

In this blog we discuss, why “pushing yourself out of your comfort zone” and taking a black and white approach to our goals does not always yield the best results.


Panic goals vs stretch goals

If you had a pound for every time you heard about the importance of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you’d probably be relaxing in the Bahamas rather than reading this blog. However, there are varying degrees of pushing yourself out of your comfort zones, with hugely different results.

Often, if you set the bar too high it leads to overwhelm and panic.

If you’ve spent the best part of 2020 slumped on the sofa binging on Netflix in your spare time and a friend suggested entering a marathon at the end of the month, you’d panic and most probably tell them where to go.

However, if they suggested a 10k race (a quarter of the distance) that’s a goal that you’re more likely to be motivated by. And after completing a 10k race you may feel, after a few more months training, you might have a crack at a 10-mile race or even a half marathon – eventually building up to a full marathon by the end of the year.

So in short – you need to set goals that will stretch but motivate you. Not goals that you soon realise are unrealistic, send you into a panic and are swiftly abandoned.


Emotion is a stronger driver than logic

Studies show, particularly when it comes to buying decisions, we act on emotion and justify with logic. Which is something to bear in mind when determining what your motivation is when setting and working towards goals.

If it’s raining, the prospect of binging on several episodes of The Crown, rather than getting out for a long run, is more appealing. Which is a decision based on emotion (you can’t be bothered).  You’ll justify this decision with logic – “Missing one run won’t matter”, “I might make my sniffle worse”, “I might slip over and injure myself.”

However, if you’ve arranged to meet up with a running partner (or even working through a training schedule, where your partner or coach can see on Strava whether you got out or not), you’re more likely to get out for that run.

If we apply logic, the reasons you’ve given yourself for not getting out for a run are the same, but when vocalising this to someone else, seems, well a bit weak.

With a running partner (virtual or physical) emotions and ego massively come into play. You’re more concerned about how you’ll look – uncommitted, lazy and want for a better word a bit of a lightweight.

If we apply logic, the reasons you’ve given yourself for not getting out for a run are the same, but potentially giving these reasons to someone else, seems, well a bit weak.

So the emotional aspect is a stronger motivator than logical reasoning. Similarly, against all logic you may find yourself training despite having an injury because you’re so concerned about what others may think of you if you miss a run.

Which brings us on to triple goal setting.


Triple set goal setting

As we have become painfully aware over the last few months, life never goes to plan. So you need to have some flexibility in your goal setting. A tried and tested method is triple goal setting, which we’ll refer to as Pride goals, Medium goals and High goals.

What do we mean by this? If we return to the running analogy, those of you that have trained for a marathon know that it rarely goes to plan. If you’re following a three-month training plan, how likely is it that you’ll make it to every single training session?

Often training sessions are abandoned because that sniffle has developed into something more debilitating, a large work project unexpectedly has it’s deadline brought forward or those pesky workmates keep dragging you out for post-lockdown beers.

So, you’re rarely hitting the five training sessions a week that result in a sub four -hour marathon. Which means you have to adjust your goal expectations.

  • If you’ve only missed the odd training session, then you could still feasibly get round in less than four hours – which is your highest goal.
  • If you’ve averaged nearer three to four training sessions then you could probably get round the course at a slower pace, in under four and a half hours – your medium goal.
  • In a worse case, scenario you might have managed two sessions a week. In which case you know you’ll spend a lot of time walking – but hey, you’re still going to get round, raise money for charity. In short, it’s preferable to pulling out and you’ve hit your minimum “pride” goal.

Now, if you’ve already prepared for these scenarios before you start training, meeting your medium or pride goals will not feel like a failure. You’ll remain motivated, because you’re still on course to meet one of the goals.

Which is why you should take a similar approach to sales goal setting.

For example, your high goal might be to be the best performing salesman in the organisation, your medium goal might be to beat your sales performance from the previous year and your pride goal is to hit your commission threshold.


Focus on processes as much as outcomes

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than spending months training for a marathon to have to pull out at the last minute. However, setting and achieving smaller goals along the way is an important part of keeping yourself motivated.

For example, you should celebrate every time you reach a new distance milestone – whether that’s six miles or ten miles, every time you have to buy new clothes because your old ones are getting too baggy.

Likewise set yourself goals for making prospecting calls, growing your LinkedIn network or booking in face-to-face/virtual meetings. Because these are the activities that feed into the larger goal and keep you motivated over the long-term.

Particularly important if you have a long sales cycle of several months or more.

Obviously there is a lot more to goal setting than we have covered in this blog. To discover more, including why a member of the SBR team has staked money on hitting his pride goal and 10 Steps to Effective Goal Setting, take a look at our recent Webinar ‘Effective Goal Setting’ for a strong 2021.



To talk to us more on how you can improve your goals, please get in touch by emailing info@sbrconsulting.com or call us on +44 (0) 207 653 3740.

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