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What If Your Goal Is Too Big?

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Three Possible Effects of Having Too-Big Goals
By Becky Robinson  |  Nov 13, 2015

I started 2015 with a pretty big goal related to the revenue growth I hoped to achieve in my company. If we had reached it, it would have represented a 51% increase over last year. With only seven weeks left this year, it’s pretty safe to say that we won’t reach my goal this year. Instead, we’ll more likely finish the year with revenue growth of 35% over last  year.

My oldest daughter started the month of November with a goal to “win” NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month. She set a goal to write 30,000 words of a novel. Meeting her goal = winning.

When I started wearing a Fitbit this summer, I changed my goal from the default of 10,000 steps per day to 12,000 steps because during my first few enthusiastic days, reaching 10,000 steps seemed far too easy. I wanted to push myself to go beyond.

When setting goals, it’s important to stretch. As I’ve written before, stretching stretches me. Goals provide a way to measure our progress; goals give impetus to work harder. Goals can provide motivation and focus.

Rather than coasting or sliding through the year, our big revenue goal has inspired me to think more strategically about how to prepare for growth, thinking about our work in a way I might not have otherwise.

Big goals. We set them. We work toward them. What happens when we don’t reach them?

In some cases, we may stop trying.  My daughter lasted about 5 days with NaNoWriMo. When she got behind one day, I could see her motivation waning. I encouraged her to continuing writing. If she wrote 300 words a day instead of 1000, she would still finish the month with nearly 10,000 words of a novel finished. But she stopped entirely. I wonder if a more reasonable goal would have had a more pleasing result.

In some cases, the goal becomes meaningless. I’ve determined that the only way I can reach a 12,000 step goal is to run at least 4 miles in a given day. Even with a focus on moving more, including incorporating walking meetings in my day, purposefully parking in the far reaches of a parking lot, and taking extra trips up and down the stairs throughout the evening at home, I very rarely reach even 10,000 steps. Since I am only committed to running 3 to 4 times per week, it’s a given that I will only reach my step goal 3 or 4 times every 7 days. And on a recent day, I ran three miles and still failed to reach the 12,000 step benchmark. When I run a long run, I far surpass my goal, again rendering the goal meaningless.

In some cases, the goal motivates us to keep striving. My big revenue goal, and realizing that it’s out of reach for this year, has not caused me to lessen my intensity. The closer we get to the goal THIS year, the more likely we are to blow it out of the water next year. This is one big goal that is delivering on its promise.

And, it’s important to focus on other great results, in absence of reaching our goals. I didn’t have a formal profitability goal this year, but I’m thrilled by the fact that this is my company’s first profitable year. I didn’t have a goal to move my office out of my home, but doing so has been a great professional boon and personal relief. That I added overhead while remaining profitable — another result to celebrate. In absence of reaching a specific goal, there is always something for which you can rejoice. Find those. Capture them. Celebrate them. Allow them to propel you to greater success as you focus on what’s working more than you focus on any lack.

If you have a goal that’s too big, consider how you can harness energy from that big goal to achieve more, even if the goal itself is unreachable.

What about you? What is your response to failing to reach a big goal?

About Becky Robinson

I am an entrepreneur who is energized by creating opportunities for others. When I’m not working, I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking, running, and reading  »  Learn More

What People Are Saying

Becky, this is so true! Big goals get different reactions! Loved the clarity of your post on this. Still, I believe the more stretch, the more result. So looking back at how far you are from the starting point is definitely the way to go! It boils down to self-esteem and learning opportunities. If I drop the goal, am I afraid I will make a fool of myself? Did I set myself up for failure? Can I re-evaluate my goal and set intermediate steps to achieve it? Thanks for starting me on a new reflection-spree! Hugs from Mexico

Thank you! I’m glad I inspired some thinking. Hugs from Michigan!

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