Having now met with nearly 2,000 clients and conducted roughly 7,000 sessions since becoming a hypnotherapist 11 years ago, I’ve heard just about everything.

When people are paying me their hard-earned money to help them make a change in their lives, it’s rarely because they don’t know what they should be doing. Most often, it’s because they know exactly what they want to do and should be doing, but they still haven’t done it yet!

When I ask them to explain why they haven’t made progress – whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, saving money or ending a destructive relationship – it’s like Groundhog Day: I hear the same answers over and over again.

So I wanted to share with you the top 3 reasons I believe most people fail to accomplish their goals and dreams. Take a look and think about whether you’re guilty of any of these crucial mistakes.

Keep in mind I’m saying “You” here while speaking in generalities. Since all people are different, it’s quite possible one or more of these don’t apply to you.

1. You Are Lying to Yourself

The top lie I hear from my clients is short and sweet: “I can’t.”  Other variations are “I couldn’t” or “I wasn’t able to.”

These are statements about ability.  The reason they are lies is that you are indeed capable of going without cigarettes. You just chose not to do so.  You are capable of eating healthier foods. You chose not to do so.  You absolutely can improve your life and get what you want, you just haven’t figured out how to do it yet!

The most dangerous thing about telling yourself such lies is that you can convince yourself that those lies are the truth. Once you do that, you have quite literally hypnotized yourself into being helpless and dependent (which, of course, is the opposite of what I do for my clients).

The word “can’t” is like a virus.  Just think about how many times you’ve used the word “can’t” to get out of some social obligation, rather than telling the person you’d rather not attend. How many times have you said “I just can’t do that,” when the reality was that you just didn’t want to?

The effect of repeating statements of helplessness on the subconscious mind is quite powerful… and damaging.  The subconscious responds more to repetition and authority than it does to logic and reason.  No matter what you say to yourself, whether logical or illogical, if you repeat it often enough, it becomes your reality.

When I ask a smoker why she hasn’t quit previously, she will typically say “I couldn’t handle the cravings” or “I was going through a stressful time.”  Then I ask the Ten Million Dollar Question: “If some reality show offered you $10 million to quit, could you do it?”

I wish you could see the looks on my clients’ faces when they hear that question!  Immediately they realize they’ve been deluding themselves, and they sheepishly respond that yes, they could quit for all that money. They’ve now been forced to admit that quitting has never been a question of ability; rather, it was always a question of motivation. The same is true for most goals in our lives.

The key to success is being honest with yourself. Admit that your failure in the past was not a due to your lack of ability. Take responsibility. Admit that it was because you didn’t give it 100%, that you didn’t fully commit, or that you just didn’t have the knowledge or experience to succeed at that time.

Once you admit that, you are empowered in the present. Now that you are being honest with yourself, you recognize that you are in control of your actions, and once you commit 100% to achieving your goals, there is nothing that can stop you.

2. You Are Way Too Hard on Yourself

After all these years, it still amazes me how hard people are on themselves. People who are otherwise kind and generous will often treat themselves like absolute garbage!

When I ask a client why he beat himself up so much for making mistakes, he’ll say “Because I should know better.”

The assumption there, of course, is that other people shouldn’t know better – that he, somehow, for some unknown reason, should be held to a higher standard. After all, if he held others to the same set of standards, he would have to be just as hard and unforgiving with them as he is with himself.

In my experience, 100 times out of 100… people are infinitely more forgiving and understanding with others than they are with themselves.

To justify this self-loathing, people typically point to something awful they experienced from the past. Whether it was a genuine mistake they made, or perhaps something completely outside of their control, the conclusion is the same:  there is something wrong with them that justifies the harsh treatment.

Because of this, people develop this extraordinarily negative internal dialogue.  They call themselves “stupid” or “idiot” or “[really bad combination of expletives]” until they convince themselves those criticisms are true.

Then, after being convinced of their own stupidity and ineptitude, they continue to make the same mistakes. It’s the classic self-fulfilling prophecy: “I’m an idiot; therefore I continue to do idiotic things!”

You know what happens when those really horrible and abusive parents tell their small and impressionable children that they are stupid and bad and will never amount to anything? Most often, the children wind up believing it. I have had clients who came to see me in their 50’s and who were still convinced they were worthless “because that’s what mommy and daddy said” a thousand times when they were kids.

If you say nasty things to and about yourself often enough, you will be just as convinced of your worthlessness and helplessness.

So stop it.

Decide instead to be your own best friend.  Replace the criticisms with encouragement and watch your life improve immediately.

Remember, the subconscious doesn’t care whether you tell it you’re stupid and worthless… or whether you tell it you’re brilliant and wonderful… it will believe whatever is repeated.  Maybe it’s worth it to give the positive thoughts a shot.

3. You Haven’t Given It 100%

Have I mentioned the benefits of repetition?

This cannot be stressed enough.  Until you make your goal a top priority and treat it as a “must” rather than something you’ll get around to only if it’s convenient, you’ll continue to stagnate.

The things we judge to be top priorities in life, we do.  You don’t “try” to get to work on time… you get to work on time.  Why do you succeed in being on time with such consistency? Because without even openly saying it, you have decided that the consequences of being late (i.e. losing your job, financial security, healthcare benefits, etc) are so severe, the idea of routinely strolling in a couple hours late is not even worth considering. You tell yourself “I have to go to work every day” or “I have to get there on time.”

So why haven’t you met your goal of quitting smoking, eating better, exercising more, taking better care of yourself (or whatever)?  Because you haven’t yet accepted that the consequences of failing to meet that goal are too severe, or that the benefits of achieving it are worth the effort.  Therefore, it has continued to be this thing you’d like to do, but will only do if it’s convenient…. which makes it easy to forget, put off or ignore.

The truth is that there is very little human beings cannot accomplish when putting in maximum effort.

I do know that no matter how hard I try, I’ll never be able to dunk a basketball on a 10-foot rim (we found 9-foot rims in college and had a blast!).  However, when it comes to personal habits and goals that require no outside help (or physical gifts), I honestly believe that I can do pretty much whatever I want.  Therefore, the only thing that stops me is deciding that the costs or sacrifices associated with a particular goal are too great; i.e. I’d rather have a balanced life than become a millionaire workaholic.

So to summarize, if you want to start making progress and eliminate all that hesitation and frustration, start by being honest with yourself, being nicer and more forgiving with yourself, and then top it all off by giving it 100% of your effort and commitment.

How Hypnotherapy Helps

It’s one thing to know what to do, and it’s another thing to break long-standing habits overnight.  When I work with a client on these issues in our Atlanta Hypnosis location, I’ll hypnotize them and give suggestions that will bring these positive ideas into their awareness more frequently, which helps them to actually change those internal thoughts, and subsequently that internal voice, in a way that allows the changes to take place more quickly and easily.

I will typically record the hypnosis session and instruct the client to listen to the recording daily for a few weeks, which helps to reinforce and strengthen the suggestions while also accelerating the rate of change.