Patrick House, a recent winner on the national television show "The Biggest Loser," lost 200 pounds in the midst of intense competition for the annual award. He is a young man with enormous resolve. When asked, "What is the single most important factor in reaching our goals?" without hesitation he replied, "Number one is perseverance. Too many people give up too quickly. Gym membership sales in the month of January go through the roof, and the show-up factor falls like a rock in February!"

Why do most people give up so easily? What are the differences between those of us who do and those of us who don't?

Motivation is a key issue. Henry David Thoreau defined motivation as "the pull of anticipation and the push of discipline." Both anticipation (the goals, visions, and objectives you set) and discipline (your work ethic and determination to follow through), properly handled, can take you to new heights.

For example, it's easy to get excited about New Year's resolutions and the promises they afford—on January 1st. The salient question is, are you excited enough to get serious about the process and ultimately stay with it to completion? Studies have shown that goals and resolutions barely exist until you get them in writing. When you go to document them, they start becoming real and viable. Unwritten goals are little more than wishes. It's interesting that the word wish sounds much like the wind: here one moment, gone the next!

When you write a goal down you can see it, show it to others, or display it on your refrigerator as a reminder. When you don't, you have not yet informed your subconscious mind of that goal's importance.

Here are six barriers that keep our goals from becoming a reality, along with some tools to break through those barriers:

  1. Lack of Clarity. The more detail you attach to a goal the more likely you are to follow through on it. Describe it with why's (for the purpose of ___); when's (completion points and interim progress dates), and what's (including your current situation as well as what the end game will look like). Don't worry, you can't overdo the detail!

  2. Lack of Commitment. Getting serious enough to write goals down and share them with others is how you make a commitment to the process. You are putting the universe on notice that this is your intent. As W. H. Murray famously wrote in The Scottish Himalayan Expedition, "The moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too."

  3. Lack of Belief. Our behavior is the result of our belief system. If you believe your goal is doable, believe you have the right strategy, and believe in yourself, then you'll persevere and make it happen. It is the person filled with doubt who fails to take the next step. This is no time to be timid. Be bold!

  4. Lack of Passion. Fire in the belly propels you toward action and results. That passion is what gives you the courage to get started on those goals you have articulated. Get fired up about getting started and go for it! Vision without action is hallucination. Seeing even a marginal amount of progress is all it takes to inspire you to take the next step.

  5. Lack of Congruence. Your new goal needs to be in sync not only with your belief system but also with your other goals and your capabilities. If it is too outlandish or unrealistic, the incongruence of it will short-circuit your belief in your ability to get it done.

  6. Lack of Focus. Writing down clarified goals is the beginning of an exciting process, if you can keep your focus. Cavett Robert defined character as "the ability to carry out a worthwhile plan long after the mood in which it was made has left you." Can you vow to stay focused on the vision? The difference between high performers and mediocre producers is a focused intensity accompanied by perseverance.

Few people realize the power and potential one can derive from crafting one's magnetic compelling purpose. During times of challenge and change, such as our current economic environment, people tend to gravitate either toward scarcity or toward abundance. The majority, who move toward scarcity, are focused on problems and the negative aspects of their circumstances. Those who are drawn toward abundance are more focused on possibilities and progress, and that prosperity consciousness is what inspires them to take action and jump all in.

Your success does not depend on who your parents are, or where you went to school, or how old you are. Freedom to excel is your individual birthright.

There is inevitably a gap between potential and performance; this is natural, and true for all of us. High performers simply have a smaller gap.

Look at it this way: Each of us has two self-images: a present self-image, which is a snapshot of how we feel right now about our current strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, and so forth; and a projected self-image, which is a vision of where we see ourselves at some future point in time. What you need to have firmly in place is a clarified vision of your strengths, weaknesses, and capabilities, envisioned in great detail and at a specific future point in time. The discrepancy between these two self-images is the source of that fire in your belly—the fire that will ignite your passion and unleash your highest potential.

When you stop setting goals, you essentially direct your subconscious mind to go ahead and start preparing for death. Don't fall into that trap. If you can articulate what it is you really want, put it in writing, and fine tune it, then you are on your way to achievement.

DON HUTSON is the author or co-author
of twelve books, including the #1
Wall Street
Journal and New York Times bestsellers,
The One-Minute Negotiator and The One-Minute
Entrepreneur; a Hall of Fame speaker; and
CEO of U.S. Learning. He is past president of
the National Speakers Association and a veteran
of 6,000 presentations worldwide.