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Struggling to achieve your goals? Make sure you're not sabotaging yourself.

focus goals motivation productivity Jan 15, 2022


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  • There are a few common ways we fall into the trap of sabotaging ourselves not only in the new year, but with our goals and dreams in general.
  • Specificity is a must. Whether it’s what counts as success or what exactly you’re envisioning for the future, you need to make sure you get as clear as possible on what you’re doing.
  • One of the most important things you can learn is to stop overwhelming yourself. Whether it’s how you’re setting up the habit or how much time you think you have vs actually have, overwhelm can kill your dreams in their tracks
  • You might be being too hard on yourself. One of the worst things you can do is continuing to blame Past You while also trying to do better in the future.

Keep reading (below) for seven specific instances of sabotage and strategies to combat them.



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Have you been sabotaging New Year's You? It's only January 8 on the day I'm recording this, and I know that there are some traps that you can fall into in the beginning of the year. It's like we have this natural lift of motivation on January 1, and then we start a slow decline. And by January 8 it starts to all slip away. The habit isn't exactly working out like we thought. And if it was an exercise habit, our muscles are sore, and that sucks. And we're uncomfortable and getting up early is no fun…

This applies to you whether you set goals, whether you want to install a new habit, or whether you're the kind of person who says, “You know what, I don't want to set a goal. Right now, I just want to enjoy my time with my kids” or “enjoy my coffee,” or “sit on my porch more.”

If you're the “I just want to…” person, let me make sure I clarify -- whatever you say next, that actually is a goal. That is an intention.


Let's talk about some mistakes you might be making with your new year’s resolutions, goals, or intentions.


Mistake #1: Taking on too many things at one time.


I was a master of filling up my plate and ending up in burnout. The beginning of the year is when we overachievers are most likely to set ourselves up to fail. We get to that last week of December and we kind of go through this cycle. We're like “well, I really let myself down last year. Boy, did I let things slip, but come January 1, I'm going to take on these 87 things and I'm going to do every single one of them every single day. It’s gonna be amazing!”

It's too many things! You can't take on that many things at one time. An important part of achieving goals, building confidence, and creating habits is about repeated success. And recognizing your success.

If you have ten soccer balls to get from one end of the field to the other. Is it going to be more satisfying to kick each one a little bit each day and try to get them all into the goal at the same time? Or is it going to be more satisfying to PICK ONE and get it into the goal quickly and then go back for the next ball?

It's disheartening when you try to work on too many things at one time because you just can't. You can't accomplish everything at one time. But you can install one habit and then add another habit. You can have one goal that then builds into another one.

Nobody is saying, “Today, you're going to pick everything you're going to achieve for the rest of your life. So choose wisely.”

That's too much pressure! You're going to work on one thing. You're going to accomplish it. And then you can pick another thing.

One of the most common ways to sabotage yourself is taking on too many things at one time. Watch out for this one, overachievers!


Mistake #2: Being unclear with your vision for the future.


There's a reason that vision boards are so popular or putting everything on Pinterest or making a collage. It's because picking out pictures forces you to make decisions and choose what you want.  Part of the reason a kanban board works is because you have to actually write things on the stickie notes before you put them on the board. You are forced to make decisions.

If you don't know where you're going, you won't get there. And listen, when I say this, sometimes people think that that means you have to have huge dreams. You don't have to have huge dreams!

I'm going to encourage you to continue to work on your life and continue to get to a place where dreams will start to occur to you again. But sometimes you're in a place that's so low you can't dream big. Either you're grieving, or life has kicked you around, or you just had too many things not work and and you're tired. That's okay.

But even saying “At this point in my life, what I want most is to be able to enjoy my coffee in bed every morning,” that's a habit! That's an intention. That's a goal.

It's a goal that's going to make you feel good. A goal does not have to be something that makes you feel stressed out because you don't know how you're going to achieve it. Sometimes goals are scary and are going to push you. Sometimes you're at a place in your life where you need to push yourself; you need to scare yourself. Sometimes you're not. Sometimes you just need to set an intention.

If you’re not clear on your habit, goal, or intention… get clear! Even if you’re not sure it’s the “right” decision, pick something.


Mistake #3: Poorly defining “100%,” “your best,” or what counts as success.


I know that several of my coaching clients have this challenge. The great thing is I've coached enough people now and had enough students go through my course that now I don't have to say, “please tell me I'm not alone in this.” I know I'm not alone. I know that this is something that some of us struggle with. My friend was talking to me about setting up an exercise routine. And what she wanted to talk about was where she was making a mistake. “What’s wrong with me?” is basically what she was asking me.

She said, “I get started. And I do about eight days and I'm good and then I just totally fall off the wagon and then I don't pick it up again for like 10 days.”

“Well how many days a week are you supposed to work out?” I asked.

She was like… “every day??” 😂

I said, “okay, well how long do you have to exercise for it to count?” 🤔

For every question I asked her, every answer ended with a question mark. She hadn't defined what she was doing.

You might be falling into this trap with your to do list if you end every day feeling dissatisfied. You're the one setting the finish line for the day. The difference between ending the day satisfied vs dissatisfied, that's on you. You're the one who decides the finish line. If you're constantly feeling dissatisfied, ask yourself:

Do I just never set a finish line?

Does nothing count as 100%?

Does nothing count as good enough?

You may think, “If I don't beat myself up, I'll get lazy.” I absolutely used to have this thought even though I know now that I am not lazy. But I was convinced that I was and that if I didn't end each day thinking, “Once again, Mel, you didn't get enough done,” that I would just quit.

You’re not lazy! You just need to define what counts as complete or 100%. Set an actual finish line and then cross it. And then allow yourself to feel good about!


Mistake #4: Starting where you want to be instead of where you are.


Are you super good at visualizing the future? When I talk about visualizing the future, are you thinking, “Mel, I’ve got so many dreams. I’ve got so many ideas for my future. I’ve got so many goals.”

You might have noticed I built my entire brand around the word future. So, this is definitely me.

For any of you that are super good at visualizing the future and you’ve got all these big dreams, there is a good chance that you are trying to start your year, your goal, your habit, your progress on that dream further along than you actually are.

This is like Mel thinking that she's going to write a book and it's going to sell a lot a lot of copies in the first week.

Did it sell some? Yes. But… I have a really big family. And a lot of them told me they bought a copy. So I'm pretty sure a lot of those copies went to family members.

The disappointment is coming from Mel trying to start where Future Mel might be instead of where I actually am. If Future Mel is an author who releases a book and it sells 1,000’s of copies in the first week, that’s Future Mel’s reality. Not Present Mel.

I set my goal number based on what I hope to be true in the future instead of what’s actually true now. That was my first book. I didn’t expect it to sell 1,000’s, but I did expect it to sell about 10x more than it actually did.

If you're good at visualizing the future, there's a very good chance you're also living in the future. That doesn't mean in your daily life you're not being present or not being grateful. It just means you might be setting what you view as “realistic” goals when really they’re realistic for Future You, but not Present You. If you continually face disappointment, dial it back.


Mistake #5: Poor time management.


Do you waste time? Or do you try to do too much? I used to really struggle with this. And if I'm honest, I only fixed it at the end of 2020. I started putting things in my calendar: my goals, my projects, my time for my habits. And that's when I started to realize “Oh no, Mel! You are overestimating how much you can accomplish this month or this quarter by a factor of ten. You can accomplish about 1/10 of what you think you can.

Do you ever try to do too much, get overwhelmed, and then waste time not working on anything at all?

That’s because we move into fight flight or freeze as part of our as our survival instinct. Different people have a different default. Mine is freeze. I know that I've put too much on myself, I know that I'm overwhelmed, if I'm lying on this floor. That's where I go. Not the couch, not my bed, the floor. That's where I freeze.

Do what does “overwhelmed” look like for you? Does it look like “Well, I'm just gonna go for a walk because anything I do won't be productive here anyway?” Do you go clean the bathroom? Do you go take a nap? Do you get mad and beat yourself up?

If this is happening to you, then you might be trying to fit too much into too small of an amount of time. Dial it back. It’s better to get a small amount of something important done than nothing at all.


Mistake #6: Planning for the whole year.


It's too long! Do you even remember what January 2021 You was doing? I don't remember what I was doing and I have a steel trap of a memory. Ask any of my coaching clients. Most of the time I don't even need all the notes that I take, I just remember. But yet, I don’t remember what I was doing last January.

A year is too long. You can't conceptualize it, you can't plan for it, there's going to be too many different things that go awry, there's going to be too many different things that you learn. You might start working on one goal, get in two months of progress and think “Oh, man, I actually need to majorly adjust this goal.” Now your whole year plan has been thrown out the window anyway.

If this is you, stop trying to plan for the whole year. Plan for one quarter or one month at a time.

I used to always, always, always plan for the whole year. And then I would stop looking at the plan in early February. And by July, I would forget that I had even made a plan. And then at the end of the year when I went to create a brand new document, I would go to save it and I would discover I had another document already called “year plan.” I would open it and realized I’d done none of it and that would just make me feel bad.


Mistake #7: Throwing Past You under the bus.


If you are having feelings about 2021that are anything other than “2021 me was doing the best she could!” then you might be falling into this trap.

I absolutely did it this year. I’ve grown into being much better about it, but 2021 was a difficult year and I ended up majorly disappointed about a couple of things. But you know what… PAST MEL WAS DOING THE BEST SHE COULD!

We’re going to fix this right now. I want you to stop reading and write down three things you are proud of that Past You did last year.

Did I see you roll your eyes?

I saw it. I'm always watching. 👀

What are three things that you did last year that you can be proud of?

They don't have to be giant. If you're casting about and only thinking about your big goals let me ask you this: Did you take care of your family? Just because it's on autopilot does not mean it shouldn’t count. Just because you think you “have to do it” doesn’t make it less valuable.

Please understand: you don't have to do anything. I’m especially looking at you, caregivers. Whether you take care of a plant, an animal, a spouse, a parent, a child …you think you “have to.” You might be excited to do it and doing it in a loving way, but you completely discount it and are unwilling to give yourself credit for all that hard work.

Did you take care of your kids this year?? Good for you. You didn't have to do that. But you did. I bet you did a pretty good job. Probably better than you're letting yourself think you did.

Give yourself come credit!


That's seven different instances of sabotage that you are going to avoid in the new year:

You're going to stop taking on so many things at one time. Just pick one thing and work it until it's an installed an ingrained habit or until you cross the finish line. And then you can pick up the next thing. It's not one thing ever, it's just one thing for now so stop overwhelming yourself.

You're going to get clear about your vision for the future. So whether that's Three-Months-From-Now You or Three-Years-From-Now You or 5-Star Future You (the most authentic version of yourself), you’re going to create a vision so you know where you're going.

You are going to define what your best, or 100%, or crossing the finish line looks like. So that you're not falling into that trap, like my friend who didn't know how much exercise she needed to meet her exercise goal. You’ve got to get specific.

You're going to start where you are, instead of where you want to be. You know, I still struggle with this, so if you're struggling with it, it's fine. But really think about where present you is, and where you can get in the next three months. Instead of thinking where Three-Years-From-Now You might be and where that person can get.

You're going to focus on time management. So put it in the calendar. That's when you figure out, “Oh, hey, I do have time to do this thing.” Or “I don't have time to do this thing” or if you’re like me, you find out that you only have time to do 10% of what you think you have time to do.

You're going to plan for a shorter period of time. A year is too long. Plan for the next eight weeks, the next 12 weeks, or the next two weeks, but not the whole year.

And you're going to stop throwing past you under the bus. If you didn't do it, write down three things you're proud of that Past You did last year. And if you haven't already, you can download the free Goodbye Old Year, Hello New Year journal and that will help you give Past You some credit.

You’ve got this!

Your 5-Star Life Coach ⭐️




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