Top 5 Reasons for Delaying Goals (The Goals Pyramid)

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For a while, we’ve been hearing from our readers and podcast listeners what their biggest difficulties with goal-setting were. It turns out that almost all of us face the same challenges. So, let’s try to figure out why it’s so hard to deal with them!

In fact, it isn’t that hard but like anything else, a certain algorithmic approach is required. We called it the Pyramid of Goals. It has several levels that are to be achieved one by one. Today we are going to get into the details on how to work up all the way to the top. Once mastering this process we will be able to tackle successfully any type of objective.

But first, let’s list the most common issues.

The downward spiral of failure

Anyone could, regardless of their type of personality, social status, or educational background, fall into the same pattern of mistakes that eventually leads to giving up. We called this process “The downward spiral of failure.”

Here’s what it looks like:

  1. One routinely delays and postpones starting work towards a goal;
  2. The objective is formulated in a way that’s, in fact, harming rather than helping;
  3. Finally, there isn’t a consistent and focused effort that is well planned and executed.

The result is what one would expect

The order of this sequence is hardly by accident.

We all agree that when you don’t know what you want or how to write it down “black on white” then you are doomed to failure. These are the very first steps and if they go wrong nothing good can come out of it. When motivation is shaky and the goals are wrong (SMART  goals are one example) it is likely that anyone will give up sooner rather than later.

But let’s try to stay on the bright side here!

The opposite of the downward spiral of failure:

We devised something of a countermeasure – The Pyramid of Goals. It’s made of five levels:

  1. Clarity of goals;
  2. Faith and confidence that you are moving in the right direction;
  3. Motivation;
  4. Time;
  5. Focus and discipline.

First, we lay the foundation – a crystal clear understanding of what we want. And then we do our best to work at a constant pace towards the given objective. Any issues with procrastination, self-sabotage and unfocused actions are thus resolved.

This is the guarantee that we can make all the way across the finish line. Let’s now look at that in more detail.

Level # 1: Clarity

First and foremost you need a perfect understanding of what you want, if you really want it and, finally, how to get it.

The pyramid is purposefully based on clarity. It’s impossible to achieve our true dreams unless we are 100% sure what they are. This is the top challenge for most people. They might know perfectly well what they have to do today or next week, but they have no clue about the general trajectory of their lives.

No one is immune against lack of clarity

Ivan was no exception. He is one of those who would be fully dedicated and focused on the objective once he knew it was what he really needed. But if he isn’t fully convinced, just like in the case of going international, he can just put the whole idea aside for a period of time.

On the other hand, a realization like “I will regret it for the rest of my life if I don’t do it” will let us see the big picture as well as give us a long-term perspective. Or, to give it a different perspective…

Your vision is the answer!

It is like a guiding light that spans over the long-term horizon of 30 years for each of the most important aspects of our lives, i.e. health, family, career, etc.

Although it might change with time it will make it impossible for us to put off action. We become decisive and determined in our actions.

The clarity in action?

Once we have laid the foundation – knowing exactly how to answer the question “Why we want to achieve a given goal” – we can get to the stage of action. And that’s where the next challenge is waiting for us, i.e. being at a complete loss how to proceed towards our objective.

But don’t panic!

You don’t actually need to have planned ahead of your next 100 moves. It is enough to have set only the first 90-day goal and what to do in the very first week. The rest will follow naturally. But it takes a lot of faith and some considerable confidence.

Level # 2: Faith and Confidence

The very first pre-condition for a good start is the trinity of clarity, faith, and confidence.

Faith is the hope that you can achieve your dreams at the stage of vision. If you don’t have the smallest of belief it could happen then your chances for success are becoming quite slim.

Most people misunderstand confidence as something they need before they can start going after their big dreams. Well, it is the opposite – it comes only as a result of actions at the stage of 90-day goals. Our experience and knowledge that we gain along the way are the driving force behind it.

How can we improve in that respect?

Faith is generated and sustained in a number of ways – visualization, re-reading of the written vision, positive affirmations, meditation, and the strong answer to the “Why” question. All of these open up our mind and free it from worries and pressure of daily life.

Confidence, on the other hand, does build up naturally. The idea of the “Cycle of Confidence”, developed by the author of the 4 C’s formula, Dan Sullivan, shows the way to do that. First is the commitment, then the courage to start the process of expanding our capability to learn and grow. The last step is confidence. The good news is that each time we go through this process it gains the momentum that we need so badly in order to pursue our bolder goals.

Level # 3: Motivation

It’s perfectly normal that with time our drive to succeed will go down. There are basically two reasons. We either forget why we have taken on the given goal (or the “Why” wasn’t answered fully), or we simply run out of energy to go on.

The strong answer to the “Why” question

Niki is a big fan of this.

Being able to name the reasons why you are doing it is what drives us most.

Simon Sinek explains very well how this works in his book “Start With Why”.

But even if you know why you’ve taken that road you still the energy to make it all the way to the end.

Energy and motivation

How can you go on if you haven’t slept enough, had too many cups of coffee, you are stressed out and your brain is about to turn off!

The motivation can survive only if we are in a good state of health. Tony Schwartz’s concept of the four types of energy – physical, mental, spiritual and emotional – is very much to the point here.

We need to take good care of ourselves and be 100% physically as well as mentally in order to be able to cross the finish line.

Level # 4: Time

You don’t have time for your goals? You must be kidding, right!

We all can say that this is the main reason for failing to act.

Being short on time won’t be much of a problem if you’ve already gone through the previous three levels – clarity, confidence, and motivation.

There are two ways to deal with this.

First, let’s stop wasting time!

We all wish to have more time on our hands and yet we keep wasting it daily.

The thing is that we have no right to complain about it if we keep spending hours on social networks or watching TV till late in the night.

Squandering time has many faces. If you are not tempted by social media then you might very well be checking your email too often or following the breaking news too closely. Or perhaps you obsess with the Sudoku app on your phone. The key here is to pinpoint these and then start changing your behavior.

We have to know very well how we spend our time.

We would like to recommend one very interesting book, “Make time for what matters.” The authors, Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky bring up this new idea of the so-called “infinite loops”, i.e. those patterns of our behavior responsible for wasting most of our time. They also describe several ways how to avoid this by applying certain tricks and tactics.

And second, let’s be smart and effective when it comes to our time!

Not wasting your time is one thing but being productive is quite another. If we become much better at managing our time wisely then we will be able to find the time needed for our goals.

Our system comes down to small but constant effort. You do not have to work on your goals all day long. All you need to do is to set aside some time on a regular basis.

And what about if you have more goals than resources? The answer is what tops the Goal Pyramid – the focus.

Level # 5: Focus and discipline

These two are different and yet there is something that can put them together so that they start working for us – our goal-setting system. “GoalBuddy” will not only teach you how to act decisively and without any delay but it will also make you less dependent on self-control.


The system helps you choose what’s most important so that you concentrate your efforts solely on it.

  • First, find out what your vision is.
  • Then, each quarter set up 3 goals to work on.
  • Finally, at the level of the weekly step, complete a small action each week for each of the 3 goals.


Here the system will be of much help if you aren’t one of those highly disciplined people. It does it by providing you with a unique set of tools to maintain focus and be consistent in your efforts.

The key is your Buddy – he plays the role of the “audience” for your ideas and goals.

Pretty much all successful people have something in common – excellent and effective communication with this person.


We want results, but that requires action. And we mean not just action but one that’s focused, consistent and highly motivated. When any of these are missing we risk going down the slippery slope of compromise and eventually we could easily enter the downward spiral of failure.

But there is another way.

The goal-setting system is the way out. It will make sure you work according to plan and stay on schedule by building up a number of effort saving habits that will serve you well in the future. And the Goal Buddy is the force that keeps you on track while you climb all the way up to the top of the Goals Pyramid.

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