Why Fitness Goals Fail, and What to Do About It

01.10.2021 | Forge Performance

More than half of fitness goals that are set each year will fail.

And of the ones that are successful, chances are they won’t be able to sustain it for more than a year.

Often times we look to blame a lack of willpower, self-discipline, or a host of external factors.

But what if it had far less to do with our abilities and more to do with our approach?

When you have the right mindset and approach to your goals, it creates a sense of empowerment that extends far beyond the initial spark of motivation.

Success in fitness is all about creating momentum.

In the years I’ve been coaching clients on healthy, sustainable exercise and nutrition practices, I’ve come to identify three key factors that greatly determine a person’s likelihood of success.

When these factors are addressed, there’s no need for willpower or self-discipline. And there’s hardly any experience of burnout or overwhelm.

Today, I’m going to break down those key factors in depth so you can address them for yourself.

If you want to make this year the year you finally crush your health and fitness goals, then keep reading.

Fail to plan

…you plan to fail – as the saying goes.

Most resolutions or commitments to improve one’s health and fitness fail because there is no action plan from the start. And that’s the key word – action.

When we think about working toward a health and fitness goal, we tend to think about the tangible goal that we’re looking to accomplish:

  • Lose 10lbs
  • Reduce body fat
  • Gain strength and energy

Goals such as these are what are referred to as outcome goals. And although it’s essential to have absolute clarity on our goals, it’s not enough to stop there.

Because knowing what we want doesn’t give us any direction on how we get there. It doesn’t create a definitive action plan for how to accomplish that goal.

That’s why, once we have a firm understanding as to what we’re after, we need to identify the behaviors that will take us there.

These are referred to as behavior goals, and they’re the daily actions that are responsible for accomplishing the outcome we seek.

Some examples of behavior goals are:

  • Exercise for 30 minutes daily
  • Eat lean protein with each meal
  • Have a bedtime ritual 30 minutes before bed

These behavior goals are the keys to developing lifelong skills in exercise and nutrition.

When we develop these particular skill sets, we give ourselves the foundation for reliable, sustainable change.

Without a clear action plan of what behaviors we need to initiate in order to work toward our goals, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process.

Instead of having a planned, systematic approach, our attempts are often erratic – trying anything and everything we think might lead us to our goal.

Which brings us to our next factor…

Too much too soon

Through no fault of our own – well, almost no fault – we’ve come to view the path toward our fitness goals as a sprint.

Most fitness programs are neatly packaged into 21 to 90 day programs promising you the body and life of your dreams. All you have to do is stick to the plan.

But sticking to the plan is where most of us run into trouble. At first, keeping up with “the plan” is no big deal. There’s a bunch of motivation and excitement in the beginning to easily carry us weeks into the program.

But far too often, somewhere along the journey we lose the drive or motivation to keep up these behaviors.


In the past, you may have blamed yourself.

“I just need more willpower.”

“I’m really lacking self-discipline.”

“I was doing really well. I just got lazy.”

But before you go on putting yourself down and downplaying your abilities, let’s take a look at what science has to say about how we initiate these behaviors.

One thing at a time

The success rate of building any one habit, by itself, is around 80%.

Remember, we’re not talking about initiating a behavior, we’re talking about taking action on it consistently to build the skills needed for sustainable change.

You can attempt to create more than one habit at a time, but the success rate isn’t nearly as good.

Actually, it’s not even half as good.

As soon as we look to build more than one habit at a time, that success rate plummets to 35%.

So, it really has far less to do with you than it has to do with how we’re designed. It’s hard for our brains to focus on doing something really well for an extended period of time unless it’s our central focus.

This goes back to having a definite action plan, so you know that the behaviors your initiating drive the changes you’re looking to make.

Instead of incorporating a host of different behaviors, identify your biggest limiting factor.

The thing that, when addressed and improved, creates a surge of momentum. A cascade reaction that enables you do improve all the other areas that need attention.

For some people, when they start exercising, they naturally start eating better without any additional effort.

Others find themselves getting more physically active after they improve the quality of food in their diets.

The good news is – you know yourself better than anyone else.

Find your biggest limiting factor, then…

Add. Don’t subtract.

When we’re creating our fitness action plan, we tend to think of all the things we have to stop doing:

Stop drinking soda.

Cut out the carbs.

No more alcohol.

Once again, this can usually work in the short term, but doesn’t garner very promising results.

We hate being told what not to do. Even when the person is well intentioned. Even when the person telling us what to do is us.

Restricting ourselves from certain foods or beverages will almost certainly cause psychological backfire. Over the long term, it actually increases the occurrences of these behaviors instead of decreasing them.

When we focus on adding behaviors into our routine, the things we might look to cut out find a way out all on their own.

And the best part is, we don’t need to do our absolute best from the start.

Progress. Not perfection.

When committing to a health and fitness goal, it’s commendable to want to do your best.

But our best should be viewed as something as what’s relative to the current time as opposed to what our potential is when everything in life is going “perfect”.

Trying to do things perfectly, all the time, simply isn’t sustainable. In reality, 20% of our efforts will be great, 20% will be subpar, and 60% will be “good enough”.

True, sustainable fitness results come from being consistent – committing to doing something when you can’t do everything.

Because all that really matters is keeping the momentum moving forward. Some days, some weeks, some months will move slower or faster depending on what we have going on in life.

If we’re relying on doing our absolute best, all the time, it’s a guarantee we’ll never be able to sustain those efforts. Sooner or later, life delivers an obstacle or roadblock that we have to learn to work around or work with.

Instead of taking the “All or nothing” approach. Try “Always something” instead.

Think of your efforts more like a dial as opposed to an on/off switch. When life is kicking your butt, simply adjust the dial and do the best you can. When your commitments and responsibilities slow down, dial your efforts back up again.

This is a skill you’ll need to learn for the rest of your life to sustain any progress you make. If you really want to change, you need to move with life – not against it.

Your life won’t change until you do

Rule #1 of nutrition – if it’s in your house, you’re eventually going to eat it.

When looking to reach our fitness goals, one of the biggest mistakes we make is failing to consider the role of our environment.

The food we keep in our house.

The people we surround ourselves with.

The makeup of our daily routines and schedules.

All of these factors contribute to our ability to create and sustain change.

If we fail to make adjustments to these factors, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to reach our goals.

Your environment is the foundation for all of your decisions and behaviors.

We’re quick to blame willpower and self-discipline for when we fall off track, but more often than not it’s a lack of a supportive environment that is the culprit.

How can we set up our environment to be more supportive?

  1. Stock your house with the right foods

This is an easy one. You can’t eat better if you have the wrong foods in your house staring you in the face constantly.

Nor if you don’t have the fridge stocked with healthy options you enjoy eating.

Clean out the kitchen, make a grocery list, and shop for those items.

For a super simple infographic on how to simplify nutrition, check out this infographic.

  1. Make sure you have the tools you need

You can’t properly prep, cook, and store the food if you don’t have the right tools.

Consider buying a good set of pots, pans, knives, Tupperware, and consider purchasing smaller plates and utensils to encourage more appropriate portions sizes.

  1. Consider which restaurants fit your preferences

If you’re someone who eats our frequently, take a look at the restaurant menus and identify your fit-friendly options.

Almost all restaurants will have these options available, but it’s always good to look ahead of time. If you go in with a plan for eating, you’re less likely to make impulsive decisions.

  1. Modify your daily routines

Park the car further from the office, take the stairs instead of the elevator, adjust your commute to avoid the daily fast-food…

All of these are simple yet effective ways to adjust your daily routine so you can increase physical activity and improve your nutritional choices.

  1. Get support

Communicate with your spouse, family, and friends as to how they can help be more supportive of your efforts.

For an added boost, enlist in the help of one individual as a fitness buddy. Someone who has similar goals and ambitions.

If necessary, hire a fitness professional to help you get started the right way and keep you on track to get you where you want to go.

There are a number of other ways to improve your environment, but these are often the most impactful places to start.

What you can do about it

We covered a lot surrounding the mindset and approach needed for a successful fitness venture.

To recap, here’s how you can approach your fitness goals for a more enjoyable and sustainable process:

  1. Have a firm action plan in place

We won’t beat a dead horse here, but if you don’t have the right action plan in place, you’re likely to end up overwhelmed, frustrated, or burned out by your fitness experience.

  1. Approach your goals systematically

One thing at a time. Don’t do a million things hoping for results. Focus on the one thing – the most important thing – now, and build momentum as you go.

  1. Set yourself up for success

Consider the who, what, when, and how of your daily actions and behaviors. You don’t need to change everything all at once. Start with where you feel like you can make the simplest, most impactful improvement and adjust things as you go.

Schedule a Complimentary Strategy Session

If you want help creating a personalized plan from scratch, schedule a time for a Complimentary Strategy Session. I’ll walk you through a tested, proven, and completely customized process to help you attain your goals in 2021.

My schedule is extremely limited, and times are filling up fast. If you want the roadmap you’re looking for to crush your goals this year, book a time by clicking the link below!