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You've worked hard at setting specific, measurable, realistic goals… but you still aren't taking any action on them.

So you go out and purchase an ebook or enroll in an e-course that offers information, inspiration, and/or community support around your goals. And you still aren't taking any action.

So you decide that maybe what you need is one-on-one support, and you spend top dollar on a coach. And still… you take no action.

Now you're several weeks (or months) further down the road, several hundreds (or thousands) of dollars shorter in cash, and you're not actually any closer to those fantastic goals you set. What gives?

The one question that determines whether you'll take action

If you're not taking action on a goal — especially if you're not taking action despite having enough information and resources and support — the secret reason for your lack of action is probably this: You don't really want it.

There's one question that, when answered clearly and directly, very accurately predicts whether or not you'll take action toward your goal or vision, and getting really honest with yourself about this question at the outset will save you loads of both time and money.

Here it is: Do you truly want this?

To answer this as honestly and clearly as possible, let's clear out some misconceptions about the things we say we want.

First, you cannot truly want something by proxy.

“I want this” means that you want this, not that others want you to want it. Even if the rest of the world tells you you should want a particular goal, if you don't want it, you're not going to take action on it. You can't truly want something because other people think you should.

Clarifying Questions

If you think you might be dealing with a goal that you “want” by proxy, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you think you should want this?
  • Are you concerned that others will think of you differently if you didn't want this?
  • Do you believe that other people approve of you wanting this?
  • Does one of your role models / friends / experts advise wanting this?
  • Does one of your role models / friends / experts want this themselves?
  • Was this goal given or assigned to you by someone else?

If you answered “yes” to any of these about a goal on which you're having trouble taking action, it's likely that you're dealing with a “want by proxy.”

Second, you cannot truly want something only because you don't know what else to want instead.

“I want this” means you want that specific goal, not that you're unsure what else to aim for. Wanting something because you don't know what else to set as a target is not effective goal setting; it's lack of clarity. Deciding that you have to do Goal X because you simply cannot imagine what you'd do if Goal X was out of the picture doesn't mean Goal X is actually the right goal for you. It means you've got some mining of your own visions and possibilities to do. Do that mining, and then reassess your direction.

Clarifying Questions

If you suspect you're dealing with a goal you've selected because you didn't know what else to aim for, ask yourself:

  • Does the thought of removing this goal make me feel lost?
  • Is my primary motivation for wanting this goal fear or confusion?
  • Do I lack resonant reasons for wanting this goal?
  • Did I select this goal during a time when I was feeling panicky or anxious?
  • Would removing this goal require me to do some soul-searching or reassessments that I've been avoiding?

“Yes” responses to these questions about a goal on which you haven't been taking any action usually indicate a goal you “want” only because you're unclear what you genuinely want.

Third, you cannot truly want something by inertia.

“I want this” means you want it now, not that you used to want it. Having previously wanted something does not obligate you to want that thing forevermore. This isn't the same thing as perpetually flitting among possibilities, which also results in an overall lack of action. This is getting real when a long-held goal no longer fits your big visions, no longer feels resonant, and needs to be set aside in favor of goals that better serve those big visions. Set it aside. Once it stops being resonant, it's dead weight.

Clarifying Questions

If you wonder whether a current goal is there only by inertia and not because you presently want it, ask yourself:

  • If I woke up tomorrow with amnesia and had to set my goals only by a gut feeling of what was resonant and what wasn't… would this goal be off the radar?
  • Are the information, situation, and destination different now than they were when I set this goal?
  • Has my big vision evolved since I made this goal?
  • When I get really excited about where I'd like to go, do I tend to forget about this goal?
  • Are the reasons I articulate for having this goal mostly phrased in the past tense (or no longer applicable)?

Noticing a lot of “yes” answers here about a goal that hasn't been acted on usually means you're dealing with a goal that exists because of inertia, and not because it's currently resonant with you or where you want to be.

What to do with goals you don't really want

So do you really want this goal? Not by proxy, not because you just don't know what else to aim for in its absence, and not just because you used to want it — do you truly want this goal?

If not, you might find that a different version of the goal or a specific piece of it fits for you. Ask yourself what about that goal resonates with you, if anything. Check in with how different versions or elements of this stated want make you feel. Tense? Excited? Pressured? Re-invigorated?

Or you might find that scrapping the goal entirely is the right choice. Once you give yourself permission to remove it completely, notice how that feels. Does it create openness? Does it make space for other possibilities? Does it suddenly make the path to action on something else seem viable?

The bottom line is that a sustained lack of action toward a goal (or even a set of goals) usually means we didn't really want that goal or set of goals. So why keep throwing time and money at goals we don't truly want? Get clear, select goals that feel resonant and that you do truly want, and put your effort, time and attention on those. Suddenly, with those not-really-wanted goals out of the way, you may find yourself taking action easily. Fluidly. Maybe even happily and passionately.

Amazing what a little “want” can do, isn't it?

★ What goals could you be putting action toward if you let go of the ones you don't truly want? How would your day look or feel different if you got really honest about what you truly want? Are you willing to try and see?

Image Credit: cobrasoft via SXC