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Why Most Goals Are Not Met

April 6, 2020 in

Common Goal Setting Pitfalls and How to Avoid them.

Author: Noelle Torres

How is it that some people can meet their goals while most others cannot? The component in our process that consistently gets neglected is finding and knowing the why behind what you do. Most organizations and leaders know what they do and how they do it, but only the best know why they do what they do. When you start with “Why?” what and how easily follow. At HigherEchelon, we’ve seen time and time again organizational culture and, therefore, operations, failing because the company has not articulated their values, vision or mission. Through our Resilient and Adaptable leader program, we help them through the process to identify the “Why” that matters most to the executives, but most importantly resonates with the workforce.  Here’s what the process looks like:

“Why is a purpose, cause, or belief” – Simon Sinek

What’s your why?

Knowing your why is a crucial part of maintaining motivation. The why is a representation of values and is depicted in daily behaviors. It is easy to get carried away with to-do lists and working towards milestones, but without values clearly established, an individual or an organization struggles to maintain motivation for the long haul. Ultimately, if left undefined, your daily actions or day to day operations begin to suffer or drift from your initial objective. Thus, it is critically important to find your why and, as Simon Sinek explains, “work from the inside out.”1

Front load the goal setting process with a clear question “Why are you doing this?” or “Why does this matter?” Starting with why leverages our values to keep us on course throughout the process. Ultimately, the goals and subsequent tasks have better direction, shared understanding, and a north star when critical decisions arise.

Start by identifying approximately three to seven values your company lives and breathes. As an example, Apple’s current seven core values are Accessibility, Education, Environment, Inclusion & Diversity, Privacy, and Supplier Responsibility.2 CEO Tim Cook has selected those values to shape and streamline the company’s overall trajectory and create a culture of innovation.2

Now, think about you or your company’s own trajectory. Write your values down and evaluate them. Is there any redundancy? Is there anything that you’re not sold on? Ultimately, boil your values down into your must-have list to keep the message clear and focused.

Once determined, these values are what you can leverage when a setback occurs or when you are only a quarter of the way to a long-term goal. Consider the values as the backbone of the organization. The backbone supports the actionable items that answers how you will achieve your goal. Without a backbone to direct the tasks, the organization’s actions are undefined and out of step. Dedicate time annually to re-evaluate your values and plan accordingly.

Act with Purpose

A common misconception of resiliency is that it is solely about bouncing back from adversity. Being resilient in an organization also includes taking calculated risks. Determining a clear and concise “why” allows for an organization to set parameters when striving for growth, innovation and pushing boundaries. Calculated risks entail a general idea of the “cost” of the endeavor, a probability of success, and the possible reward(s). The organization’s values ultimately guide the process and put controls and prioritization structures in place. It differentiates calculated risks from pure risk taking. Creator and founder of TOMS, Blake Mycoskie is prime example of taking risks while remaining aligned with his values. He has pioneered the business model of “one for one” with his shoes which investors did not support along with his product line styles. This did not stop Mycoskie, a social-minded businessman who wanted to help those in need. He completely invested in himself and ultimately defined the millennial generation of consumers by taking actions in line with his why: to help others. TOMS has now given 86 million pairs of shoes to children since 2006 along with other necessities such as eyewear and even safe water.3

Where to begin?

For any person or organization, understanding why you are doing something makes a huge impact on what you do and how well you do it. Using the tips in this blog, evaluate your own values or think about the values of the company you work for. Are they well – defined? Do they resonate with you? Answer these questions and then think about how you can improve them. Even if only for yourself or your team, set your values and act with intention.

If you need some help or reassurance throughout the process, reach out to HigherEchelon for an Executive Coaching session or a Resilient and Adaptable Leader workshop. Our experts will help you triangulate on the right values, leaving you with confidence about your action plan. Reach out today.


  1. Sinek, S. (2013). Start with your Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. London: Portfolio/Penguin.
  2. Cook, T. Apple Values: https://investor.apple.com/apple-values/default.aspx
  3. Mycoskie, B. About TOMS: https://www.toms.com/about-toms