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Why Can’t I Stick to My Goals?

Sticking To Goals Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine

During the beginning of any goal setting program, most athletes experience the hype and what’s known as the honeymoon. During this honeymoon phase, athletes are usually very motivated and driven in moving forward with a positive mindset to achieve their goals. Everything is new and exciting! After a while, that honeymoon phase fizzles. Some athletes might describe feeling stale or disengaged during this slump or plateau phase. A large part of this phase includes the struggle to stay on track with their goals. This might lead the athlete to feel that they are not strong enough to complete their goals, that they established goals out of their reach, or that the goals just weren’t in the cards for them. The truth is most athletes will experience issues with sticking to goals, but there are some crafty ways to fix that problem!

Common Mistakes With Sticking To Goals

Too Many Goals

It’s essential to understand some common mistakes associated with goal setting and why an athlete may not be successful in sticking to their initial plan. One of the most common mistakes is that the athlete might have established too many goals. When this occurs, there’s a likelihood that the goals might have been too broad or unclear. Or, instead of focusing on one goal, the athlete might have tried to tackle five or six.

Obstacles In The Way

Another common mistake is allowing obstacles to set the athlete off track. Some athletes view the obstacle as a challenge meaning that they recognize the resources they have to overcome it successfully. Other athletes might view the obstacle as a threat leaving them feeling out of control or that they would never succeed.

Lack Of Self-Confidence

Lack of self-confidence is another factor that could steer an athlete away from achieving their goals. The inner voice of an athlete is extremely powerful and strong! Once the negative thoughts begin creeping in and saying to the athlete that they can’t do something or that they’re not good enough, it can start to impact their outlook and mindset, which can alter motivation in working towards achieving goals.


Consistency issues can also cause athletes to struggle with sticking to their goals. This can include not setting aside appropriate time each day or prioritizing other elements. It’s natural to let this happen, but remember, procrastinating will offset an athlete’s ability to achieve your dreams!

4 Ways To Help You Stick To Goals

Understanding these common mistakes is essential for athletes of all ages and experience levels. Still, one of the most important aspects of goal setting is to become self-aware and proactive in implementing strategies when struggles in sticking to goals become apparent.

  1. Incorporate SMART Goal Setting.  An excellent method to develop strong goals is to use the SMART method. This stands for organizing goals to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Using this strategy can assist an athlete in strengthening goals that initially might have been unclear and broad.
  2. Rethink The Obstacle.  Recognizing that barriers and obstacles are part of the goal setting process can help athletes develop a sense of acceptance or anticipation when they arise. Goal setting is not a linear process. It’s natural to see peaks and plummets throughout. Athletes should do their best to think in advance of potential obstacles they might encounter and develop strategies that they can implement to help them recognize they are in control and can be successful. 
  3. Shift Thinking Into The Positive.  Once the negative thought patterns begin, it is easy to allow them to continue! Negative thoughts can be detrimental to many athletes and take them away from potential success. Learning to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones can assist athletes with their self-confidence levels and enhance motivation.
  4. Schedule Each Day With Specific Action Steps. A strategy of successful goal setting is to include daily action steps aligned with the overall long-term goal. These action steps serve as specific items for the athlete to accomplish, designed similar to a daily task list. Having these included in a goal setting program will assist with commitment, dedication, and motivation.

Goal setting is a fun and powerful process! As athletes strive towards achieving their goals and dreams, it is very important to remember that they are human. It is impossible to stay motivated and engaged every day at the highest standard. It is challenging when obstacles and other needs of the athlete offset the initial goal setting plan.  The key component is for an athlete to become self-aware so that they can monitor the changes they experience during this process and implement strategies when necessary.

Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.