The Goal Cycle

As we come to the end of the year, many of us start to look forward to making plans and goals. It’s a time for closing out what is and dreaming of what can be. However, so many people stop there. They make the goal, possibly write it down, and then wonder why nothing happened at the end of the next year.

Here are some common mistakes that lead to goal failure.

1. You don’t write it down. There is magic in committing to your goals on paper. I am sure there is science behind it. I don’t know that science. Just trust me on this one.

2. You have too many goals. If everything is important, nothing is important. I used to be afraid to focus on just one goal. I thought by the time I achieved it, everything else in my life would have fallen apart. Turns out, the opposite is true. By committing and moving through a single goal, you learn skills that move you more quickly through the next one.

3. You can’t tell when you achieved it. If your goal doesn’t have a measurable metric that defines success and a time frame, then you aren’t sure if and when you are done. That makes it hard to know when to pop the cork on the champagne. If you are like me, I tend to start thinking of the next goal before I finish the current one. Without a clear end to the current goal, I miss out on acknowledging that I completed it. I effectively cheat myself out of the self-confidence I build through goal completion.

4. I don’t learn the lessons taught. In working through any worthy goal, you learn many skills along the way that translate to future endeavors. If you don’t take the opportunity to evaluate what you learned at the end of each goal, you are missing a huge opportunity to move forward exponentially.

  • I use a process called “The Goal Cycle” to make sure that I reach my goals.


(Pick your specific, measurable goal)


(Decide this is the only one you will focus on and list as many meaningful reasons what as possible)

Encounter obstacles

(If it’s a worthy goal, you don’t already know how to do everything you will need to know to achieve it. There will be skills you need to learn and circumstances that get in the way.)

Create strategies

(You will have to develop new skills and processes to overcome each obstacle.)


(You have realized the original, measurable result in your life. Don’t forget to celebrate!)

Clarifying your goal and completing the goal are the fun parts. It’s exciting to dream of the future and what you want to achieve. It’s amazing to celebrate the conclusion and hard work. The middle of the cycle is a tough slog through the muck. It feels like it takes forever. It seems impossible. You don’t know why you picked such a stupid goal to begin with. This is where everyone quits. At some point, people stop looping back up the cycle to re-commit to the goal. However, can you see that if you never stop the commit -> obstacle -> strategy loop, it is inevitable that you reach your goal? You cannot fail if you do not quit. When you committed to that singular goal, you took away other distractions and opportunities to jump to a different goal that looks way better from your spot in the knee-deep mud. You are all in. All you have to do is stay in the cycle.

It may take longer than you think it should. It may be harder than you imagined. It definitely will feel like a terrible idea at some point. But if you don’t quit the goal cycle, you will reach your goal.

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