2 Reasons Why We Fail At Achieving Goals And Building Habits (Solving The Initial “Honeymoon” Stage)

There are two problems associated with the beginning stages of every habit or in achieving any goal. While we may want to take into consideration internal problems like one’s lack of motivation or purpose, we often tend to disregard outside forces at play in our decision-making process. The self-help community has taken an overly libertarian philosophy where everyone believes we have the free will to change our lives at will “only if you believe in it enough!” Though, this strategy is deeply flawed as it disregards many practical concerns as well.

Here are the two most common issues regarding building habits and setting goals:

The Lift-Off Problem

Rockets use most of their fuel only to get the rocket out into space. Then, propelling the spaceship while in space is not an issue. The problem occurs when one fails to use enough fuel to get the habit into orbit. By failing short at 90%, the remaining 10% leads to a defeating downfall.

On a second try, one might go all the way to 95% to fall short again, discouraged for a lack of results. This comes from improperly assessing how much fuel is needed to get the habit into momentum.

The answer: Go all in at 100%.

The Drifting Problem

We’ve all seen it in Fast and Furious. While racing, drifting into a corner looks way cooler than driving like a good citizen, doesn’t it? The problem is that drifting is a lot harder to control than driving normally. Most of us go into setting goals with the presumption that we will be able to drift and avoid all obstacles flawlessly just like in the movies, but that is simply naive and unrealistic.

We want to implement the habit right away, so we slam the brakes on our previous habits and violently turn the steering wheel for our lives to head in a new direction, but that only causes instability, disorder, and the high probability of crash and burn. Hence, we literally “burn out” and after we bring our car to the repair shop, we try again while repeating the same mistake. To drive at our best, it is not enough to know everything about the car we are driving. We must know about the map and the road conditions as well. Here are some car racing analogies for those of you who have a hard time slowing down in life:

Understeering in life occurs when one does not slow down enough before engaging in an important turn because of excessive speed. Examples:

  • Wanting to start a business while being a full-time Ph.D. student;
  • Jumping into a new relationship without taking the time to recover from a recent painful breakup;
  • Anything overwhelming that necessitates you to excessively cut on personal time and even sleep;

If you are caught in an understeering situation:

  • Let go of the gas pedal and breathe before you take a new decision.
  • Realize that you cannot do everything at once. Pick one thing, and stick to it.

Oversteering in life occurs when one slams the break too abruptly before engaging in an important turn, causing major instability that is hard to recover from. Typical examples include:

  • Going cold turkey on a bad habit in hopes of never repeating it ever again;
  • Most new years resolutions that fail within the first month (from now on, I’ll go to the gym 5x a week or nothing! No more Netflix for the rest of the year!);
  • Leaving all of your old friendships without having new friends in sight;
  • Going “all out” by dropping out of college and starting a new business without having any realistic backup plans or transition period*

*Note that the latter has been overly romanticized in the self-help community with stories of college dropout Bill Gates and such, but they are far from the norm.

If you are caught in an oversteering situation:

  • Realize that you do not have to go either all in or nothing. Consider a healthy, more realistic transition period that will ensure success in the long-term;
  • If you’re stuck in this situation, focus on finishing the turn and do not divert your attention from it, or else you might crash.

Note that “going all out” can be a very useful strategy in the short-term in specific scenarios. Robert Greene called it the “Death-Ground strategy” where one does not have any second options. This tremendously raises the stakes and makes it more likely that the goal will be achieved. Though it also adds tremendous stress and if your car isn’t suited for it, you better be very careful with this strategy.

This article is only an overview of two of the most common problems with setting goals and achieving them. What I suggest is to combine the right amount of lift-off with the appropriate transitional period in order for a habit or goal to be realistic in its achievement.

Good luck on your self-development journey!


The 90 Days Habit-Building Model: Expanded With Detailed Stages

Most of us like to blame a lack of motivation for failure to achieve one so-called goal. Though, such failures most often have to do with lack of knowledge, self-awareness, and strategy in my opinion. I believe that we can plow through obstacles without having to rely on fleeting positive emotions and motivation by having a clear roadmap.

Many self-help gurus like to market that it takes 21 days to build a habit, though from my experience the habit is still easy to undo after this short amount. I suggest an additional constraint in order for a habit to be fully formed: A habit is hardwired only when it becomes easier to keep doing it than it is to stop doing it. Oddly enough, a habit should become like a good addiction. To achieve this, I believe we necessitate at least 90 days.

Here are the most common stages one will face on the habit building process, taken from personal experience:

90 Days Habit Building Process

[Days 0-7]: The Honeymoon Stage

  • Initial burst of enthusiasm and motivation
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Burning out by doing too much too soon

[Days 14-21]: The Complacency Stage

  • “If I skip one day, it won’t be a big deal… I can handle this.”
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Overconfident, giving in to complacency

[Days 40-60]: The Dip

  • “This is useless and stupid. I’m not getting any better and not seeing results…”
  • MAIN OBSTACLE: Refusing to accept the plateau, burning out, and giving up

[Days 70-80]: The Acceptance Stage

  • The feeling of no turning back, of “having gone too far” to give up.
  • The habit is done for its own sake without any expectations “just because.”

[Day 90]: The “Addiction” Stage

  • Realization that one’s life has become increasingly better from implementing this habit
  • Inability to give up the habit. “I can’t stop. If I did, I feel like there would be something missing in my day.”
  • Newfound joy in the practice

Note that days and stages will vary depending on the habit and the individual, but I have found those stages to be consistent with my habit building processes. In my next article, I address the common failure points of the honeymoon stage.


John K.

A Message To All Self-Help Junkies: Do You Fail At Turning Abstract Ideas Into Tangible Results? Here’s A Practical Formula…

Self-help encompasses many areas ranging from positive psychology to spirituality. The problem is that most fail to realize that self-help only addresses most issues at the “meta” level, meaning that it may leave out other practical considerations in favor of grand, abstract “just believe in it!” type of groundless concepts. Going meta is pointless if we fail to address the very “stuff” or goal we are trying to achieve, whether that is happiness, fulfillment, love, success, or etc. While positively rewiring one’s psychology is important in order to achieve success in any area of life, this alone is not enough. Conceptualizing and intellectualizing must ultimately turn into tangible reality.

There are countless individuals who are obsessed with books, seminars, videos and online courses, yet never apply that which they learn. In my opinion, self-help alone would be the equivalent of having incredible schedule building skills and have nothing productive to fill this calendar with.

Examples of elusive concepts include many new age-y concepts about raising one’s vibration and being more in the moment, for example. Note that there is absolutely nothing wrong with those ideas as I encourage them myself, but the big problem lies in their execution. I agree that we must raise our consciousness, but how do we practically do it?

Knowledge is completely useless unless it is applied in the real world. Here are the questions to ask yourself today:

  1. What is my goal (aka the actual “stuff”, not the abstract idea of it)?
  2. What is the #1 method that will help me achieve this goal?
  3. What plan can I set up that will ensure consistent action towards this goal?
  4. What metrics can I use to track my progress?

Feel free to apply this model to any goal that is self-help or otherwise.

Let’s take a typical goal from men in the seduction community. If overcoming fear X of approaching women comes down to method Y of progressive desensitization, ask yourself what plan of action A will help you carry out method Y consistently.

If X (goal) comes down to Y (method), find plan A (schedule/habit) that will consistently carry out Y (method) on a consistent basis until X (goal) is achieved.

Track your progress.

Let’s say plan A is “to go out every weekend to indirectly approach 5 women.”

If A (schedule/habit) doesn’t work and you still shit your pants each night, find some other plan B (schedule/habit) of let’s say “approaching one woman a day in broad daylight”. That might be easier and more consistent on a daily basis.

If all habits fail at achieving results, perhaps method Y has to be replaced entirely for some other method Z. Maybe progressive desensitization is too gentle and you need something more drastic that will kick you in the butt adequately, or consider coaching.

In other cases, maybe the goal X itself is not the right goal. Perhaps what you truly want is love and intimacy, and you thought that the only way to achieve this was by going the pickup-artist, anxiety-busting route. Tunnel vision kept you stuck on X. Sadly, many men who invest their heart and soul into the community fail to evolve past it, never able to let go of a goal that needed revision.

Anyways, I digress. This is only a brief overview of the process I suggest in order to turn abstract information into tangible actions, yet this model still lacks many important considerations like:

  • What are good metrics for measuring progress?
  • When is it adequate to drop plan A for plan B?
  • When do we know when method Y has to be revised entirely?
  • Is it OK to give up goal X for some other goal?

It feels like this post left more questions than answers, but that is what most of self-improvement entails in my opinion: to realize how much we don’t know what we don’t know. Counter-intuitive as hell, but if you have been following me for a while, you know that I value independent thinking. In this light, I hope this post will help you find your own answers to your questions, as I am still struggling to find them myself.

Best of luck on your journey,

John K.