Five Reasons People Fail

A Guest Post by Brian Tracy, best-selling author of The Psychology of Achievement. Our new online magazine, StartUp, features an in-depth interview with Brian on how to manage your time and get more done.

People often ask me what the difference is between a success and a failure. For me, the answer is simple. A successful person knows how to set goals and work to achieve them. An unsuccessful person doesn’t.

The payoff for setting goals and making plans is being able to choose the kind of life you want to live. So why do so few people set goals? I think that there are five basic reasons why people don’t set goals — and thereby deprive themselves of the successful life they could be leading:

Reason #1: They’re not serious

Whenever I speak with a man or woman who has achieved something remarkable, I learn that the achievement occurred after that person decided to “get serious.” Until you become completely serious and totally determined about your goals, nothing really happens.

Reason #2: They don’t get the importance of goals

Many people don’t understand the importance of goal-setting. We find that young men and women who begin setting goals very early in life invariably come from families in which the importance of goals is emphasized. The discussion that takes place around your family dinner table is one of the most powerful formative influences in your life.

If your parents didn’t have goals, didn’t talk about goals, didn’t encourage you to set goals, and didn’t talk about people outside the family circle who had goals and were moving toward a higher level of achievement, then you very likely grew up with the idea that goals are not even a part of normal existence. This is the case for most people. And for many years, it was the case for me.

Reason #3: They don’t know how

The third reason people don’t set goals is that they don’t know how to do it. One of the greatest tragedies of our educational system is that you can receive years of education in our schools and never once receive a single hour of instruction on how to set goals.

Yet we find that in certain schools where goal-setting programs have been introduced since first grade, young people become excited about goal-setting — even if the goal is only to increase the scores by 5% or 10% over the course of the semester, or to be on time every day in the course of a month. Children become so excited about achieving goals that by the third or fourth grade, they love to go to school. They get the best grades. They are seldom absent. They are excited about themselves and about their lives.

So encourage your children to set worthwhile and realistic goals from an early age.

Reason #4: Fear of Rejection

The fear of rejection is caused by destructive criticism in early childhood and is manifested, in adulthood, in the fear of criticism by others. Many people hold back from setting worthwhile goals because they have found that every time they do set a goal, somebody steps up and tells them that they can’t achieve it, or that they will lose their money or waste their time.

Because each of us is strongly influenced by the opinions of those around us, one of the first things that you must learn when you begin setting goals is to keep your goals confidential. Don’t tell anyone about them. Often, it’s the fear of criticism that, more than any other single factor, stops you from goal-setting in the first place.

So keep your goals to yourself, with one exception. Share your goals only with others who are committed to achieving goals of their own and who really want you to be successful and achieve your goals as well. Other than that, don’t tell anybody about your goals, so no one is in a position to criticize you, or to discourage you from setting your goals.

Reason #5: Fear of Failure

This is perhaps the most important reason of all… People don’t set goals because they are afraid that they might fail. In fact, the fear of failure is probably the greatest single obstacle to success in adult life.

The primary reason you fear failure is simply this: You probably do not understand the role that failure plays in achievement. The fact is that it is impossible to succeed without failing. If you wish to fulfill your potential, you have to be willing to risk failure over and over and over, because there is no way that you can ever accomplish worthwhile goals until you have fallen on your face so many times that you have eventually learned the lessons that you need for great achievement.

Setting well-defined goals enables you to channel your efforts and focus your energy toward something that’s important to you. Goal-setting gives you a target to aim at and enables you to develop the self-discipline to continue working toward your target, rather than becoming distracted and going off in other directions.

To learn more about how you can radically improve your life through goal-setting, please accept my free report, Goals!

The report breaks down my proven goal-setting process into easy steps that will help you achieve the life you want faster and more easily than you ever imagined.

To download the report, please click here now.

… Thanks to success coach Brian Tracy for a great guest post!


  1. says

    Excellent post

    All to often when new people come to internet marketing they are far to quick to subscribe to a “get rich quick” mentality.

    As Mr. Tracy points out, they are not serious and they dont get the importance of goal setting. Success at anything requires the self discipline to set realistic goals and work toward them with persistence.

    In my own business website building course, we lay down a carefully structured set of goals for students to work toward. We replace the “dont know how” with know-how and replace the fear of failure with postive and honest support.

    Adrian Dunevein
    SiteSell Education

  2. says

    We couldn’t agree more, Adrian!

    It’s incredibly important to set consistent, measurable goals from the very beginning to keep the development of your new business on track — and keep you progressing towards success!

    That’s why every Step of our extensive Insider Secrets course has a built-in action plan to help our clients break down what they’ve learned into manageable tasks.

    We’re passionate about seeing people achieve what they set out to achieve — and effective goal setting will always be a big part of that equation.

    You can get started with our A-Z plan here.

  3. says

    Wow, I never thought about keeping my goals confidential. I think it is a good idea, because often I hear, “yea right” or some other condenscending comment that is discouraging. Fear of falure is another good one. Sometimes we do not start because we are afraid of failing. I like the saying fail fast and often.

  4. says

    A great post that really hits the nail on the head, I personally can identify some of the reasons pointed out in the post with my own make up but I am trying to change my mindset and will endeavour to not just set goals but ensure I attain then.

  5. says

    This post has really something to do with my search. I have been looking for many information on internet marketing, and I am very thankful that I found this. Thanks for sharing this information.

    I am sharing this to my friends, and also I added your feed to my reader for updates of new posts.

    Is there anyone who could share also their knowledge with me on this relevant topic? I am open for more ideas.

  6. says

    Hi, it seems that 5 reasons why people fail above are common to every person on the earth in achieving their goals. I truly agree with Brian and I’ll make sure that I won’t fail again next year. Guys, 2010 is coming…set up our goals and focus on them. I hope my arts and crafts business site will make my dream come true next year.

  7. says

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