As a psychotherapist, I get the honor of helping people tackle their goals. Some clients are really inspired to change their lives and just want a little direction getting there. Others feel a bit more hopeless and discouraged about creating positive change. Either way, my job is to help them take the steps they need to make their lives better.
Over the years, I've learned that no matter what kind of goal someone is trying to reach—health, financial, parenting, relationship, or career—there are some common traps that can keep them from living their dreams.
Here are nine of the most common traps that could prevent you from reaching your goals—and the strategies that will help you avoid them:
1. Putting your goals off until "someday."
Since "someday" never appears on the calendar, you'll probably never accomplish your goals if you keep pushing them off. The best of intentions won't do you any good without a clear plan.
Solution: If a goal is important to you, create a timeline. Even if you can't start working on it today, at least tell yourself when you can tackle it. Whether you want to apply for a promotion once your child starts school or you plan to return to college when you turn 40, stop using the word someday.
2. Waiting to take action until you feel "ready."
If you wait until you feel ready to tackle something tough, you might be waiting a long time. It's unlikely that you're going to gain a sudden burst of inspiration out of the blue.
Solution: Change your behavior first. Sometimes, the emotions change later. Take action and you may gain the ambition you need to keep going.
3. Not anticipating the tough times.
Whether you want to get out of debt, or you're hoping to lose weight, change isn't easy. You'll encounter some days that are harder than others and it's important to accept that there will be a rough road ahead.
Solution: Think about potential pitfalls that you might face and develop a plan for dealing with those times when you might be tempted to give up. When you have a plan, you'll feel more confident in your ability to keep going.
4. Viewing mistakes as failure.
Progress rarely comes in a straight line. But sometimes people think one step back means they've gone all the way back to square one, which causes them to give up.
Solution: Recognize that you're going to mess up sometimes. But rather than declare yourself a failure, use your energy to create a plan to get back on track.
5. Not making your goal a priority.
It's easy to say you want to make change but actually doing the work is much different. You have to decide what kind of priority you're going to give your goal. Otherwise, your intention will get lost among all your other daily activities.
Solution: Identify one step you're going to take every day and put it in your calendar. You're more likely to go to the gym, apply for a job, or spend an hour researching a new business idea if you establish a time to do it.
6. Underestimating how hard it will be.
Tackling a new goal is easy but sticking to it is hard. Assuming "This won't be a problem at all" can leave you unprepared for the reality of the situation.
Solution: Don't confuse overconfidence with mental strength. Rather than tell yourself it's going to easy, remind yourself that you're going to need to work hard to achieve your goals, despite whatever skills and talents you already possess.
7. Giving up before you see results.
Impatience is the enemy of change. And many people struggle to wait for the time it takes to reach a goal.
Solution: Just because you can't see results doesn't mean your efforts are wasted. You need to stick to goals longer than you might think before you experience lasting change.
8. Sabotaging yourself just before the finish line.
The fear of success can be a real problem. And if you're not careful, you might sabotage yourself before you reach your goal. Perhaps you don't believe you're worthy of success or maybe you are afraid someone is going to take it away from you.
Solution: Think about past goals you've struggled to reach or those you've failed to attain. Be honest with yourself about your feelings and be on the lookout for warning signs that you might be throwing in the towel.
9. Setting your sights too high.
If you're really excited about changing your life, you might be tempted to set the bar really high. If you take on too much too fast, however, you'll set yourself up for failure.
Solution: Focusing too much on a big goal can be overwhelming. Establish short-term objectives and celebrate each milestone along the way.
Interested in learning how to give up the bad habits that rob you of mental strength? Pick up a copy of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don't Do.
This article first appeared on Inc.