How To Reach Different Goals In Life Using Your “Why”

It’s not easy to take action towards different goals in life on a daily basis. But, if you are connected to your “why”, that inspiration will drive you when you’re scared.

Research has found that a majority of people will admit to wanting more out of life. In fact, nearly ½ of the entire population of our Country sets a goal for New Years to that effect.

If so many of us are setting these goals at the beginning of the year to be thinner, richer or happier – then, why is it that only 8% of us are actually reaching our different goals in life?

A goal is a dream with a deadline

On my way home from the grocery store this afternoon, I saw a woman jogging alongside the road and I was consumed with emotion at the sight of her.

I am normally pretty impressed with the women that I see who are runners. I despise running with a passion, and if you see me running alongside the road, it’s probably because someone is chasing me.

While I do go to the gym and being outdoors and active with my family is a priority for me … I would rather give birth to another 11lb baby than go running alongside the road – or, anywhere for that matter.

But, this woman was unlike any other woman I’ve ever seen running. She was not only impressive to me … she made me so proud.

I don’t know who she is and I’ve never seen her around town before, but just the sight of her embodied the animalistic power that is created when mind, body, and heart are connected and committed to a goal.

This woman was wearing shorts and a sports bra. She had one breast and one leg. And, she was jogging using her crutches. Not a prosthetic leg, or one of those cool looking blade runners, but one leg and crutches.

And, on her face, she wore nothing but pain … and pure determination.

She was absolutely beautiful.

I was in complete awe of her strength – physical strength but, also the strength of will.

While I can’t begin to understand the road that she has traveled to bring her across my path on this day, it was obvious that she’s been through Hell and, I felt blessed just to have seen a glimpse of her healing.

To recognize that she has beaten something that felt unbeatable. And, to see that she continues to wake up every day (or, at least this day), and work towards her goal – at all costs.

So, what is it that made her so determined?

What is it within her that drove her to run with crutches and show up for herself and her different goals in life?

A neuroscientist named Richard Davidson, has done several studies on motivation and, through the use of MRIs, has found that the left pre-frontal cortex of our brains engages significantly when we even think of accomplishing a goal.

Since our brains are wired to seek out those events that cause pleasure and the release of “happy” hormones, we are driven to set goals and think of accomplishing them.

But, what is our motivation to actually accomplish the goal, when just thinking about it will cause pleasure? What makes us actually do the work to pursue our dreams – when our brains feel the same whether we do or don’t?

Why did the woman that I saw actually get out of bed, grab her crutches, and go through the pain of her run – rather than just feel good thinking about doing it?

Psychologist David McClelland developed a model that suggested there are three main motivators for people to work towards their goals. And, the characteristics of what motivates you will determine the choices you make and the path that you take to reach different goals in life.

The three categories that Dr. McClelland proposed are:

Need For Power

Not in the sense of physical strength but, the ability to influence people and make an impact on their lives. There are many people that come to mind when you read this one I’m sure – but, they’re not all the same.

McClelland proposed that this category could be broken into two sub-categories; those driven by ego-centered power and those driven by socially beneficial power.

An ego-centered power-driven person would be motivated to reach their goals in order to be in charge of people and processes. A person who is driven by socially beneficial power feels good when their influence benefits society.

Need for Affiliation

This group of people is motivated and driven by the desire to achieve something as a group or a team. When everyone is working towards a common goal, then the people in the affiliation motivated group are charged and driven – it makes them feel good.

Successful athletes are often in this group. Groups like Weight Watchers are the perfect example of how affiliation-driven motivation works.

So, for instance, if you know how beneficial exercise is for midlife women but, you struggle to stick with a workout schedule you would probably benefit from exploring need for affiliation motivation. 

Need for Achievement

The people in this group are motivated by achieving their goal because they feel the goal is meaningful. This group of people like keeping score. They want to hear how they’re doing. And, they feel accomplished when they “hit the mark”.

They enjoy learning and are always trying to improve and find a better way to do things. To feel successful, these people need to set a benchmark of weight, money, etc. and are encouraged as they get closer to that mark.

I put myself in this category. While I don’t like the pressure of having to hit a certain number or quota, I do admit that I don’t feel that my goal is accomplished until I have reached the number that I set out to reach.

At the same time, I can be discouraged from working towards my goals if the numbers aren’t working in my favor. I have to stay grounded and manage my overwhelm so that I keep moving forward.

Knowing which category you fall into and what motivates you is an important part of setting goals that are attainable.

As I said before, just thinking about achieving the goal makes us feel good. But, to actually do the work and achieve the goal, you have to know why you want it in the first place.

Knowing Your Why = Taking Action Towards Different Goals in Life

Here’s a really good journaling exercise to find your why.

Think about the goals that you have set for yourself in the past but haven’t achieved. How would your life be improved if you achieved those goals. Write down every single way that your life would get better if you reached all of those goals you’ve been setting and not reaching over the years. 

Now, think of all of the ways that your life will suck if you don’t achieve those goals. This is an interesting one because you have been living the life scenario where the goals were not achieved. 

So, really think about how your life has been unhappy, unfulfilling, or stuck because you didn’t achieve those goals. 

Once you know how you are motivated, you can go through the steps to connect mind, body, and heart to the goal and create your action plan.

Action to take >>>

Determine what you are motivated by when you set goals. i.e., power, affiliation, or achievement. Be honest.

“I suck at goal-setting”

Just like there are reasons that we feel a desire to set goals, there are reasons that we stop feeling that desire.

Some of the more common reasons that people stop working towards their goals are:

Behavior is hard to change

To actually achieve success, you need to change your behavior. But, with all of the distractions and responsibilities that are in your life, staying focused on changing a behavior can be difficult.

For instance, you may need to change your daily schedule or your eating habits. But, you’ve been living with this schedule and these eating habits for decades. So, it’s easier said than done. 

Your brain chemistry is working against you

When you set a goal and then think about reaching it, you are physiologically battling your own brain chemistry. 

Our brains are wired for negativity. It’s called the negativity bias and it’s a real thing. Our brains are far more likely to believe something that is negative than something that is positive. 

Fantasy is better than reality

Not reaching goals is heavily influenced by fantasy being better than reality. When you set a goal to be successful, there is a fantasy that your life will change in wonderful and amazing ways when you achieve your goal.

For instance, “When the baby is older, it will be so much easier.” And, when that doesn’t happen, you get discouraged.

The more often you are “let down” when trying to reach your goals, the more you settle into a status quo existence and stop trying.

This is especially true when working towards something like growing a business. The idea is, “I will launch my website and immediately have clients just like person XYZ did.” And, then when you don’t come close to that goal, you are discouraged and stop trying.

This “fantasy vs. reality” relationship ties back heavily to why you are setting the goal. People who set goals motivated by power get discouraged when power is not achieved.

Action to take >>>

Acknowledge and accept that the goal you are working towards is not going to be easy to reach. Implement a plan for what you will do when things get hard. For instance, “When I don’t feel like writing, I will text my friend April and she will tell me why I should.”

Why some people reach their goals and others don’t

So, how do some people just seem to rise above and get everything they want out of life? Effective goal-setting is a learned behavior … and, “they” have learned how to set effective goals.

They understand what they are motivated by and they set their goals to be in support of that. There is no sense in setting a goal that will get you power if you are motivated by affiliation.

You’re setting yourself up for failure and you’re training your brain that achieving goals feels “okay” but, not amazing.

Once you understand what you are motivated by, you can better connect your mind, body, and heart to the goal. Your motivation will manifest in many different scenarios but, will track back to either power, affiliation, or achievement.

Effective goal-setting has many parts that all have to work together.

Don’t set a goal to make more money. Instead, set a goal like, “I will send out three resumes to jobs that are outside of my comfort zone”.

If you want to set effective goals and reach them, the approach has to be multi-faceted. Saying, “I will lose 8 pounds this month” is not enough. You have to break the goal down into all of the little pieces that it will take to accomplish that. The goal is your desired result, the plan is working backward from the goal and creating a map to follow.

You can’t say, “I’m going to go to Paris this month.” And, then be in Paris at the end of the month. There are many things to consider, logistics to plan, and steps to take. It is the same way with different goals in life.

The goals must be set with mind, body, and heart. And, the plan to reach the goal is just as complex.

Action to take >>>

Get a goal planner and create the map to reach your goal. You can also use a regular journal or spreadsheet to create your map. Make sure that you have a plan in place for when you don’t feel like working towards your goal.


What inspires you to keep going? Why do you want to lose weight, end your anxiety, make more money, or feel more confident? Write down the answers to these questions and e-mail them to yourself. When you reach your definition of success, celebrate and read the email at your celebration.


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