4 Reasons Why You Choose Distractions Over Your Goals

Is it fear of failure or fear of success?

Stella Yanakieva
May 2 · 7 min read
Photo by Heidi Walley on Unsplash

Distractions are fun! They make the time pass faster and give you a sense of calm in a world full of emotionally unavailable people, destruction and chaos. Ironically, distractions add to the chaos, but you know in a fun way.

I recently finished The Source by Dr. Tara Swart and it really got me thinking about my purpose, my progress and why I keep losing the motivation to stay on track with my goals.

Sometimes we fully dive into a life of routines and gradually abandon our pursuits. All of a sudden we start to believe that we are not destined to ever go there, to the place where dreams come true. And I think that’s bonkers!

We are the creators of our own destiny.

If you like me are trying to focus more on your goals, here are four reasons why we tend to get distracted so easily and leave our aspirations on hold + some tips on how to stay motivated!

1. Fear of Failure

Every successful person will tell you failing is part of the process. You cannot become great without first discovering the bitterness of being in the bottom, sometimes repeatedly.

One of my favourite quotes on failure and success comes from Paulo Coelho,

“The only thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve is the fear of failure.”

All the quotes finally make sense, but often what they don’t teach you is to calmly embrace the failure and any emotions that may arise in you as the healthy way to move forward.

They say the winner stands alone, but anyone who’s lost anything they really cared about has a lot of healing to do on their own. So instead of avoiding the inevitable struggle, why not make a friendly pact with it and simply let the transformation happen!

2. Fear of Success

When we talk about people staying in their comfort zone, it actually applies to everyone, just in varying degrees. We all create boundaries to help us navigate through life with more ease. Similarly, we all have ‘blind spots’ and flaws to work through as we mature into our fully realised persona (which is bound to change, since everything changes all the time!).

In order for real progress to happen, some of the boundaries that we have created along the way will no longer serve us in their current form, so they need to change as we change.

Yet even the bravest people are sometimes afraid to let go of what they know (or have) and make room for growth, knowledge, and success.


Because finding a ‘sweet spot’ in life is great, but it could prevent you from continuing the progression to becoming a better version of yourself.

Nothing lasts forever — both good and bad — but when something really amazing happens to us, we want to hold on to it for as long as we can.

So next time you find yourself fully immersed in the now, let yourself enjoy it and don’t be scared of what comes next — believe that it will be even better. The way forward is through visualising what you want the next phase to look like, while fully appreciating the present moment.

3. The Inner Saboteur

The fear of failure makes you think you are not good enough to succeed, ‘I am doomed to fail, so why bother at all.’

The fear of success has you grasping for the present like it’s the best version of life you’ll ever have, ‘I’m scared I’ll lose this if I change something’.

The inner saboteur, however, is the one that really plays tricks on your mind.

The inner saboteur presents itself like a friend, since it is virtually there all the time — in the mirror, in your head, in your joy and most of all in your misery. But think of it as a toxic friend you need to cut out of your life ASAP.

The inner saboteur will have you believe you don’t deserve to be happy and keep you comparing yourself with others. Don’t be fooled, the inner saboteur has one job only — to make you feel like you are worthless. It will try to use everything you dislike and hate about yourself.

The bad news is that the inner saboteur is part of who you are, so you can never truly get rid of it. But you can most certainly make peace with it and thus quiet it down.

Just like you can turn metal into gold, you can restore your own power over your inner saboteur.

Simply put, when you finally see yourself for who you are and love the image, you will reclaim your voice, your confidence, and your winning attitude.

4. Lack of Vision

I often hear people say that they will just “ride the wave” and see where it takes them. A little like what Lewis Carroll once said,

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

  • You are still not sure what you want (e.g. due to contrasting desires, lack of independence)
  • You are not fully able to visualise your goal (e.g. due to lack of commitment, lack of planning)
  • You are stuck in your current status quo (e.g. due to financial worries or being overly committed)

There are many reasons why we choose to distance ourselves emotionally from our personal targets, including the reasons above — fear of failure, fear of success, or trusting your inner saboteur.

A lack of vision is a pretty common reason why many of us fail to achieve our goals.

If this is the case for you, then the first thing you need to do is create some clarity around what is it that you really want to achieve. Once you have that, you can finally commit to it and start the real work.

In The Source, Dr Tara Swart suggests starting a vision board with your goal(s) for the next 12–18 months. The idea is to make it as visual as possible — think of it as a Pinterest board, but one that is very specific to your main goals and not just an exploration of a specific topic.

Example: If you want to progress in your career, you can include the target salary you have in mind (and above) in numbers at the centre of the board. Add some images of team working if you want to lead a team or include some creative drawings if you want to have more creative freedom in the upcoming months.

The best thing about a vision board is that you can include different goals — personal, professional, physical, spiritual — and start to see the whole picture.

Finally, if your current commitments prevent you from achieving or even focusing on your goals, think of ways to change or remove them altogether.

Example: Perhaps your partner is not as supportive of your professional goal to start your own business, because it will take time away from your family responsibilities. Instead of arguing and getting defensive towards each other, explain to them why this matters to you and plan together how you can prepare for the new lifestyle. 

Communication is key — whether that’s with your family, partner, friends or yourself. Knowing yourself, your inner saboteur and what you really want to achieve will help you design your destiny, the way you see it on your vision board and beyond.

Are you still reading?

The universe can help you achieve your goals through opportunities and a bit of extra luck, or it can help you find reasons and excuses as to why you’re just not there yet. What you believe in will eventually manifest itself into the physical world.

It took me a lot of willpower to finish this piece, and not just open another tab, go to Netflix and think to myself, ‘Oh I will keep writing after one episode’. We all know that it’s never just one episode. And we all know that the desire to choose distractions over actions is part of a bigger theme in our life.

While I continue to work on my vision board, I hope that you remember one thing — you are the creator of your own destiny. When in doubt, it’s probably your inner saboteur!

Disclaimer: Some of the inspiration for this piece comes from the one and only, the wisest queen of them all, Ru Paul, who’s helped me make the most of my Netflix addiction after all!

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Stella Yanakieva

Written by

Cinephile, writer, philosopher, and a big time (Haruki Murakami) book lover. For #FemalePower follow medium.com/women-talking 💃

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

Stella Yanakieva

Written by

Cinephile, writer, philosopher, and a big time (Haruki Murakami) book lover. For #FemalePower follow medium.com/women-talking 💃

The Ascent

The Ascent is a community of storytellers documenting the journey to a happier and healthier way of living. Join thousands of others making the climb on one of the top publications on Medium.

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