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What To Do If You're Not Achieving Your Goals

First off, if you feel bad that you’re not achieving your goals, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you feel bad that you’re not meeting your goals. What I would recommend is this: start meeting your goals if you want to start feeling better.

That’s the candid coach in me sharing with you a very simple truth: everybody has the potential to choose how they show up every day. The most powerful weapon anybody has is personal choice. I learned this as a SEAL, yes, but it wasn’t because I was a SEAL that I learned it.

I learned it because I was open to learning.

I was willing to accept responsibility for myself and the choices I made and as a matter of will, I was open to exercising the skill of making those choices.

Skill and will don’t immediately complement each other. There are plenty of people who are highly skilled and want to leave their jobs for something new, something better.

But they don’t.

They choose not to.

Maybe they think they need more skills or more experiences before they do.

Chances are, though, that this "story" is just that--a fictional story they tell themselves because it’s easier to conclude that the problem is “out there” (“I need to wait until I ‘get’ the skills”) than admitting that the problem is “in here” (“I’m done waiting. Time to make it happen.”). 


Will is your secret weapon. You can "will" damn near anything--at least, for the short term. 

Of the 174 students in my BUD/S class, 34 of us graduated. Everybody—EVERY STUDENT—had the skill to make it through. But only 34 had the will.

Now, the question becomes: how do you build the will if your will is lacking?

Here’s a simple framework you can use—for yourself, for others, for your team. It’s very simple--as in, too simple--and has been around for years (at least in the coaching world).



Here’s a simple way to think about growth. When you get in your car, you have a destination—a goal—for where you’re heading and when you want to arrive (ideally speaking, of course). In order to get there you have to know where you’re starting from—your reality—and once you do, you probably think of the best possible route (options) that will get you to your destination the fastest while avoiding traffic (obstacles). Once you have that awesome game plan in your head, you start the car, hit the gas like a bat outta hell (whoops, maybe that’s just me) and commit to the journey—this is your will

GROW Yourself

Let’s break down the components of GROW, starting with goals.


There’s a difference between to-do lists and goals. To-do lists are activities you check off because you must do them, such as pickup groceries, change the oil in your car, teach your kids not to be little assholes. A goal, however, is an aspiration that challenges and grows you, such as:

  • Increase annual revenue by 25 percent
  • Lose five pounds every month until I’m back at my fighting weight (whatever that  number is)
  • Teach my kids not to be little assholes (hey, it's not like parenting is easy).

When thinking about setting goals, ask yourself:

What does success look like?


You want to identify a specific end-state so you know when your goal is achieved. “Being happier” or “losing weight” or “thinking positively” aren’t goals because they’re not specific. They’re nice, they’re pleasant, but you won’t  know when you “get there” because the finishing line isn’t clear.

If you want a clear way to set goals, be SMART, yes, but take it one step further: be SMART ASS.


SMART goals are effective, yes, but they’re soooo boring—at least for me. SMART goals certainly improve your focus but I think there’s a smarter way (pun intended) to set SMART goals, and it includes ASS (now that was funny).


Before we get into the ASS part, here’s a recap of SMART if you’re unfamiliar:

Specific - Measurable - Action Oriented - Realistic - Time-Bound

I won’t go into each component as there are TONS of sites that will explain each.

Now for the fun part. Let’s talk about ASS…

Accountable. The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) conducted a study on accountability and found that having an accountability partner increases the likelihood of attaining that goal by up to 95%. Boom. To “be accountable,” you need two things:

1) a clear goal

2) a willingness to let others help you

Strategic. Goals shouldn’t be set in a vacuum. Meaning, that they should be aligned with what you value, not what others esteem or what other people think you should value. When you set your goals, think in the context of the “long game” (what you want to achieve in life) and use the next step (Structure) to work backward to establish the “short game” (what you want to achieve today/this week/this month that will eventually realize your long game). By focusing on the short game, you take immediate actions to make your long term goal come alive.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How might achieving this goal further my team’s positioning? My positioning?
  • How does this particular goal serve with my lifetime ambitions?

Structure. Don’t worry, I’m not talking military precision here. What I’m talking about is setting your environment to facilitate goal attainment. Your office at work, the people you hang out with, the environmental cues that remind you to eat better (or not) all comprise your environment and serve almost like a funnel that guides your decision-making. Set the environment right, and you set yourself up for success.


Now let’s talk about reality.


It’s important to establish reality because what oftentimes happens is we get inspired to "go-go-go!" while forgetting (or avoiding) to take an inventory of what’s likely, what isn’t, and why. In other words, we make decisions without a complete picture of reality. That’s why establishing reality is so important: to get clear on what’s working, what isn’t, and outline an effective strategy for moving forward. By clarifying your reality, you identify your beliefs, incentives, and obstacles that help and hinder—and awareness is half the battle.

Questions to unearth current reality:

  • How does [the situation] affect you? How does it affect others?
  • What’s the cost to you physically, mentally, and emotionally of continuing down this path?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate yourself now? What number do you want to be at?
  • How might you be contributing to the problem?

Options (And Obstacles)

When you’re falling from the sky, you only see one thing: earth. The first time my parachute didn’t open (not to be confused with the second, third, or fourth times, of course), the only thing I could think about as I plummeted to earth was one thing :


The point is, if you keep your head buried below the surface then all you see is dirt. That’s why you need to identify your options because they do exist.


You just have to look for them.


This is where a coach comes in—to help you identify options “above the surface” that you might not have seen otherwise because your nose was too buried in dirt.

Questions to discover your options:

  • Who might you ask for help?
  • What have you tried in the past? What has worked and what hasn’t?
  • What might be three ways to resolve this challenge/achieve your goal?


It’s all come full circle now. At this point, you’ve established your goal, identified reality, and explored options and obstacles. Now it’s time to put up or shut up and commit to next steps. The three previous steps mean nothing if you’re not willing to put the pedal to the metal and make shit happen.

Questions to unearth personal will:

  • What will you do now?
  • What are you willing to commit to?
  • When can I follow up with you on this?

Other Applications

The thing about the GROW model is that it’s not just for coaching others. You can use the GROW model to self-coach, as well. Use it for your habits. Use it for your hobbies. Use it during your conversations. Use it to map out your project deliverables.

You can apply the GROW model to your team:

(G) What’s the goal of this team? What does it want to accomplish and by what date?

(R) Where are we currently? What has to happen in order to achieve our goal?

(O) What are our options and what obstacles might be in our way? (and how might we overcome them?

(W) What is everybody willing to do to 1) hold each other accountable and 2) hold the team accountable?

Even apply the GROW model to your meetings:

(G) What’s the goal of this meeting?

(R) Is 30 minutes really enough time, or do we need more? What’s working for us and what isn’t?

(O) How might we make this meeting better (and what does “better” look like?—this circles back to your goal)? What resources do we have at our disposal?

(W) Is everybody willing to commit to showing up on time and not playing on their phones during the meeting?

These are just a few examples, but you get the idea.

I got into coaching to make a difference. I’ve always been service minded and wanted to help others realize their potential by leveraging my own unique blend of leadership and team experience from special operations and business today because believe it or not, the parallels are astounding.


Whether you’re coaching others or coaching yourself, achieving your goals requires GROWth. More than anything, it requires will.


Get after it.

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