Why Most Goal Setting Systems Fail Miserably and The Surpring New Paradigm Producing Massive Results 

Most goal setting systems fail miserably. This post is about why, and – more importantly – how you can succeed anyway. 

First, have you ever said any of the following?

“It didn’t work.”

“I don’t know what else to do.”

“I’ve tried everything. It’s hopeless!”

If any of those statements resonate with you, as they do with me, this post is written especially for you.

I’ve studied habits, goals and behavioral change for 20 years. I’ve tried almost every strategy – maybe you have, too.

Most of these strategies worked okay, but the change didn’t stick. I reversed to old habits and while I accomplished some goals, no one system seemed to apply to every challenge, setback and experience.

Maybe you can relate. If so, this post is for you.

In just a moment, I want to share with you a new goal-setting system based on dynamics proven to be a game changer for hyper productive athletes, business professionals and authors.

Everyone knows goals are important. Logically, we know we need them to produce, improve and create a career of success.

But so many of us are terrible at them. Either we don’t set them, or we don’t follow through with them.

Why? For many it is using a flawed goal system. There are many systems, some more sophisticated than others, some dizzyingly complex and others constrained by oversimplification.


Three Reasons Most Goal Systems Fail Miserably 

  1. Too complex
  2. Too simple
  3. Too boring

If a goal system requires advanced mathematics, narrow knowledge of software or thirty pages of detailed analysis most people won’t do it. And if they do, they will likely abandon the system before it has a chance to work.

What I’m not saying is that complexity is bad. There’s nothing wrong with sophistication. Most powerful dynamics are complex.

Other goal systems are simple but their simplicity limits their effectiveness. In other words, these systems don’t take into account motivation, emotions, changing circumstances, habit loops or behavioral change technology.

What I’m saying is complexity that is overly complex or not streamlined for sequential and developmental behavioral change can be counter-productive.

Finally, some goal systems are inherently Boooriinnnng 😴. They don’t inspire action therefore they are mental exercises in obligation and procrastination.

The Master Summary: Most goal setting systems fail because they fail to simplify, fail to take a systems approach and fail to activate action.

The Master Solution: Employ a goal system that is simple enough to grasp and implement that also incorporates enough complexity to produce results while keeping you massively inspired!


That’s where a new goal system comes in. I call it SASSI.

Yes, SASSI. 😀

It’s okay to smirk, smile or laugh. That is part of it’s impact – to be funny, simple and memorable.

Indeed, the emotional state of lightness, fun and humor is extremely valuable in goal setting (and personal transformation!).

Maybe you’re already starting to sense how this approach is different than anything you’ve tried before.

Wait! Goal “setting” isn’t enough. What does setting mean? Putting something down. Wouldn’t it be more helpful to pick something up, to reach and realize goals instead of simply setting them?

Setting, to me, carries the connotation of “set it and forget it”, as if comming up with a goal is the end and not the beginning of the process. Perhaps that’s part of the reason so many other systems fall flat.

So, let’s change our language to something more potent and motivating, something both more accurate and actionable.

Let’s stop setting goals and start realizing them.

Let’s get SASSI!

SASSI is producing massive results for hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. It can do the same for you.

When was the last time you felt really motivated? Supercharged? So excited you leapt out of bed? 

The SASSI Goal Achievement System

Here is the quick overview, then we’ll break down each step with examples so that you can really master the process:

SASSI is an acronym that means:

Seize A Compelling Vision

Activate Emotions

Set Triggers

Set Milestones (SMART GOALS)

Implement & Iterate (Test, Experiment, Adapt)


Before you read the breakdown of each letter of SASSI, let me highlight a few things you might have noticed.

  1. SASSI incorporates the SMART goals approach. This is a powerful and proven system, and note how it is only one part of the overall process! Being SMART about goals is essential but not satisfactory. Most people benefit from a deeper approach that takes more than logic & brainpower into consideration.
  2. SASSI is built on the principles of holistic (mind, body, emotions) human development, systems approach, habit cycles, state management, stretch goals, internal motivation and strategic flexibility.

Ok, without further ado (that one is for you, Tim Ferris), let’s unpack the SASSI Goal Achievement System.

Seize A Compelling Vision

One flaw of many goal systems is lack ofexcitement  & inspiration. There is no big “vision” to spur you on, day after day.

So the first step in SASSI is to design a compelling future vision. This is what you are ultimately after, the end goal, the final destination. If it doesn’t excite you, it’s not big enough.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.”  – Tony Robbins

A compelling vision is the WHY behind your goal – the big dream that captivates you. You happily wake up early to pursue it. You sacrifice, you suffer.

Your compelling vision is the rocket fuel of this system.

Ask these questions to find your fuel: 

  1. What would you wish for if there were no limitations?
  2. What would you do if you couldn’t fail?
  3. What would make all your wildest dreams come true?

Now, your answers should focus on the single goal at hand – or at least be related.

Perhaps your ultimate dream is to be a full time, bestselling author. Wonderful goal!

If you want to take this to the next level, write down as many details of what this dream would look like, sound like, feel like. What would it mean to you? What would your days be like? How would it change your life? The lives of those around you?

You might even create a vision board with a picture of your dream – or a symbol of your dream, like the cover of your book with “bestseller” written on it.

Don’t skip or rush this part. It’s arguably the most important element in the system. Go wild. Have fun. Don’t move forward until you are bursting with energy and enthusiasm.

This step is called “Seize a compelling vision” but the truth is your vision should seize you!


Activate Emotions

Most goal setting systems ignore emotions as if they are not the force behind our actions.

Logic and brain power are essential but they’re not sufficient. Emotions and behavior are intricately connected.

Emotions either enslave us or empower us.

To activate your emotions, follow these guidelines:

  1. Acknowledge the full range of feelings associated with your goal – painful and pleasurable.
  2. Fully feel (embrace & experience) both the painful and pleasurable feelings
  3. Fully associate (vividly imagine and emotionally connect) pain with not reaching your goal
  4. Fully associate pleasure with reaching your goal
  5. Learn to manage your feelings so that painful feelings don’t derail your actions.

Unrealized feelings often are the hidden blockages to action and often the untapped power kegs of dream fulfillment. Emotional mastery begins with awareness.

To associate painful feelings with undesirable behavior and outcomes, ask these questions:

  • How would you feel if you didn’t reach your goal?
  • What would the consequences be for you? Your happiness? Your family? Your finances? Your fulfillment?
  • What are all the negative consequences (brainstorm all of them)?
  • Why would it be the worst thing in the world?

Reverse this process to fully associate pleasurable feelings with achieving your goal.

It’s helpful to note that ambivalent feelings usually detract from the power of emotions to reach your goal. The more fully positive you feel, the better.

Many people do well with pursuing their goals until something bad happens. Usually the stress or pain of the obstacles destroy motivation and prompt conflicting behaviors.

Practice managing your feelings by acknowledging & embracing them. What you resist, persists. Embrace and experience all of your feelings to release them.

This may take time and practice. It did for me. I still have days where I’m extremely challenged by my emotions. But I’m getting better, day by day.

Emotional mastery may be the most vital piece of the goal puzzle for you. Don’t let your emotions rule you. Learn to leverage them for momentum toward your dreams.


Set Triggers 

Triggers are your secret weapon for goal achievement. You can literally program yourself to produce any emotional state at will.

Think of triggers as classical conditioning. Pavlov’s Dogs. The short version: Pavlov was a scientist who trained dogs to salivate at the ring of a bell. Why? The dogs associated food with the bell. Every time it rang, the dogs got food. Soon, they anticipated the food. Hence, the saliva.

What’s this got to do with you living out your dream life? Maybe everything.

You can use classical conditioning to link any gesture, word, sound, color or symbol to any emotional state.


Just do what Pavlov did.

Here’s an example from my life. I watched the John Travolta movie, Phenonmenon for the first time in college. After watching it, I had an insatiable desire to learn. Therefore, any time I had a big test coming up and didn’t feel like studying, I would watch this movie. Suddenly, I wanted to go study as much as possible.

While the movie worked wonders, it took around two hours to trigger the state of intense curiosity.

Now I can get the same result in 5-10 minutes.

You can, too.

In fact, you can instantly trigger any emotional state you want – motivation, creativity, joy, confidence, calmness, focus, gratitude, love.

Anytime you hit a block, an obstacle or temporary setback, you trigger the state you need to breakthrough it.

It takes 5-10 minutes to set up a trigger. After it is set, you can “fire” it for results in mere seconds.

Here’s how: (read it first for understanding and then follow the instructions)

How To Instantly Trigger Any Emotional State

  1. Find a quiet, private location where you won’t be disturbed for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Choose an emotional state that you want to trigger.
  3. Choose a triggering gesture, word and color. The gesture can be as simple as squeezing your hand into a fist. The word can be anything but one that relates to the emotion is doubly effective. Same with the color.
  4. Think of 5 or more memories where you felt that emotional state the most powerfully. If you don’t have 5 memories, you can also make up a few experiences and imagine experiencing the state intensely.
  5. Pick one memory and vividly relive it. See the sights. Hear the sounds. Feel the sensations. Put yourself fully into the experience.
  6. Heighten the sensory qualities of the experience. Make the colors brighter and bolder, the sounds deep and resonant and surround sound. Make the images bigger and closer. Double the emotional intensity.
  7. At the peak of the emotion, set your trigger. Perform your gesture, say the word silently in your mind and imagine yourself flooded with the color. For example, you might squeeze your left hand into a fist while mentally saying “power” and imaging blue light flooding your body.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 four more times.

It should take you no longer than 10 minutes to set up your trigger. You know it works when you “fire” your trigger and instantly go into the emotional state.

“Firing” the trigger means performing your combination of gesture, word and color.

Anytime you want to go into the emotional state, perform or fire your trigger.

That brings up an important point. It’s best to choose a unique trigger for each emotional state. Squeeze your fist for a confidence state, pinch your thumb and forefinger together (as if holding a napkin by the corner) for joy.

Any gesture, word, phrase or symbol (color, item, even location) etc) will work. Unique triggers that you always have with you work best. Combination triggers (gestures, words and colors for example) are most powerful.

By the way, triggers fit nicely into the habit loop illustrated in the bestselling book, The Power of Habits.

So far, you have seized a compelling vision, activated your emotions and set your triggers.

Next, let’s get SMART.


Set Milestones

A compelling vision electrifies you. Activating your emotions blasts you through tough periods, obstacles and set backs.

Milestones break up your compelling vision into smaller action steps to ignite your day to day behavior.

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible.” – Tony Robbins

Milestones are SMART Goals

More precisely, milestones are a series of smart goals that combine to generate your overall vision. They make your impossible dream possible by breaking it down into short burst of victory.

In the book small big, the authors reveal a study that showed two main elements to successful goal achievement: challenge and achievability.

You may have heard and even practiced this step before. SMART is an acronym that means setting goals that are:




Realistic or Relevant

Time bound

This is a great framework for goal achievement. The flaw is that it reduces goals to logic (leaving out emotion). That is why it is positioned here in SASSI, after  your compelling vision gives you your exciting WHY and your emotions have been activated and states triggered.

Milestones or SMART goals focus that energy on small, achievable steps so that you can celebrate victories along the way to the BIG victory.

Say your ultimate vision is to be a full time, bestselling author.

What are some actionable milestones?

  • Developing a bestselling book idea
  • Writing a first draft
  • Revising your draft
  • Writing and sending out query letters
  • Developing a platform (audience)
  • Attending writing conferences
  • Networking with literary agents and publishers

You see, there are lots of possible milestones. Keep to the SMART approach.

Here is a good article on how to create SMART goals: http://bit.ly/1RiO2IR

And here is a example: Let’s say my ultimate vision is to write an 80,000 novel. My milestone could be to write 5,000 words in the next 7 days. This is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound.

Another way to enhance milestones is to follow another study from the book The Small Big that promoted a high – low strategy. In order to sustain the behaviors necessary to attain your goals, set a range of measurable objectives instead of a single target number.

For example, instead of saying I’ll write 1500 words per day, using the high – low strategy, I would change my goal to something like 1000 to 2000 words per day.

The beauty of the high – low strategy is that it broadens the definition of success. Even if I have some low days, I’m still within the desired range and therefore are more likely to feel successful for the long run.

Set a series of milestones that lead to your ultimate vision. In a way, you are breaking your vision down into smaller parts that combine to fulfil your dreams.

By now, you have seized a compelling vision, activated your emotions, set triggers and milestones.

Notice how you have created a pattern of small successes built into this model – each prior step is a victory that means you are programming yourself for achievement as you develop “muscle memory” for high productivity.

Now what’s left is to…


Implement and Iterate

In this step, goal achievement moves from preparation to practice, from expectation to execution.

You simply implement the previous 4 steps:

  1. Remind yourself daily of your compelling vision – through questions and visuals.
  2. Process any emotions holding you back (as often as they arise) and fully associate goal achievement with massive pleasure.
  3. Fire your triggers to maximize creative, passionate, resourceful states whenever you need them.
  4. Do something everyday to move toward your current milestone. When you accomplish it, celebrate and move immediately to the next one.

Note that your implementation is unique to you and your vision, emotions, triggers and milestones.

  • The emotions you deal with may be vastly different than another person with the same or similar vision.
  • Your triggers and the states they create for you may not be the triggers or states someone else needs.
  • Your milestones may be bigger, smaller or altogether different than others.

SASSI is developed with personalization and flexibility in mind.

Therefore, as your implement you are also testing your emotion activation, triggers and milestones.

You may figure out that you require more emotional activation, or less. You may benefit from changing your triggers along the way or adding more of them. You may reduce or increase or replace certain milestones.

SASSI is structured experimentation. As you implement you can change strategies on a moments notice to meet new circumstances.

SASSI doesn’t trap you, it frees you.

So test, play, find out what works and what deserves enhancement. Improve, stay flexible, and if something isn’t working, go back to earlier steps. Often small tweaks generate big results.

Secrets of High Performance Iteration

  • If you drop in overall motivation, go back to your compelling vision. Is it big enough? What could make it more captivating?
  • If you lose motivation temporarily, activate your emotions. Process them fully. Associate your vision with massive pleasure. Associate failure with massive pain.
  • If you are not in a preferred state (passion, creativity, focus) Fire off a trigger or set a new one.
  • If you don’t complete a milestone, change it with a new smaller one. Take incremental steps that give you small regular victories to celebrate.

SASSI and The Power of Habit

While SASSI wasn’t based on the habit loop introduced in the bestseller The Power of Habit, SASSI fits nicely into the model.

Cue —> Routine —>Reward


Basically, habits form from cues that trigger routines (usually behaviors) that lead to rewards. The craving is anticipation of the reward.

Here is how SASSI fits in:

  • The compelling vision and triggers are the cues
  • The milestones are the routines
  • The rewards are the activated emotions, states created each time you fire a trigger, the regular achieving of milestones and, ultimately, the reaching of the big vision
  • The captivation element is anticipating the big dream each day as you remind yourself of it through focus questions (What will it be like when I’m living my ultimate dreams?) and visuals like pictures or props that remind you of your vision.

It is my complete pleasure to share the SASSI system with you. It has transformed my life. I strongly believe it can do the same for you.

If you want a PDF version of this article with bonus content, click here to get access.  

Or just sign up for my newsletter on Writing Tips, Tricks and Secrets for exclusive access to content and freebies all year long. 



Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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Posted in books, screenwriting, speaking, Success, writer, Writing

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