You’ve identified what really matters to you. You’ve set your goals and created systems to keep track of your progress. But you’re still struggling with the feeling something isn’t right. Maybe you’re making good progress, but feeling a nagging sense that what you’re doing doesn’t “fit” for you the way you’d hoped. Or maybe you find your progress lagging because you can’t motivate yourself toward your original goals.
You may be just facing a natural roadblock toward your progress. Or, you may be pursuing a goal that needs a little revision.
If that describes you, you’re not alone. The simple truth is, we don’t always get our goals right the first time no matter how hard we try. It can be challenging to figure out what our priorities are, and even more challenging to know on the front end what’s actually going to move the needle toward success. The further outside our comfort zone a goal is, the more challenging these tasks can be.
Some of us feel compelled to stick to a goal, however, even though it’s become apparent that it just isn’t the right fit. We don’t want to admit that we need to regroup. We worry we’re letting ourselves down. We feeling like we’re failing.
While this level of commitment and discipline is commendable, it isn’t necessarily a recipe for success or fulfillment. Sometimes shifting, revising or dropping a goal altogether is necessary for you to move forward. But that doesn’t mean you’ve failed.
You Own Your Goals, Not the Other Way Around
The whole concept of goal setting is intended to help put you in the driver’s seat of your life. To give you the power to decide, and then build, the kind of career and life that really supports you. To help nudge you toward your personal vision of success and fulfillment.
Refusing to modify, shift or change your goals when it becomes apparent they aren’t serving you does exactly the opposite. It makes you no more than an automaton, working daily at tasks that only leave you feeling frustrated and empty, even when you do them perfectly.
If you find yourself struggling with your goals, remind yourself that you are in charge. Your plans are there ultimately to serve you. If they aren’t doing that, it’s time to make a change.
Goal-Setting Is About Self-Discovery
The other major purpose for setting goals is to help you learn about yourself and grow in real and measurable ways. Sometimes the things you learn will line up perfectly with what you’ve committed to accomplishing, but other times, you’ll surprise yourself. You’ll find that what you thought mattered really doesn’t, or that what you were trying to accomplish doesn’t actually move you forward the way you’d hoped.
These surprises are not only okay, they are wonderful opportunities. They offer a chance to get to know yourself a little better. They help you refine your true priorities in ways that no amount of thinking and planning can. If you watch closely, they can even help outline a path forward that is more in line with what really drives you.
If you find yourself surprised that a goal isn’t working for you, it’s a great time to pause and ask yourself some questions about what you’ve learned and what those lessons mean moving forward. Then, you can regroup, check in on your priorities again, and perhaps shift your goals so they are in better alignment.
This Isn’t Permission to Give Up
While there are times when changing up a goal is the right course, you do have to be careful here. You can easily fall into the trap of seeing this as an opportunity to give up and throw in the towel on something worthwhile.
How can you avoid letting yourself off the hook too quickly? You’ve got to really look yourself in the eye and ask some tough questions.
Are you tempted to make a change because the original goal feels difficult, out of reach or scary?
Worried you’re going to miss the mark and tempted to give up to avoid the supposed embarrassment of failure?
Are you struggling with the amount of work that your goal will require?
If the honest answer to these questions is yes, it’s time to pause. Do your best to let the fear and discomfort fade to the background. Then, ask yourself if the reasons you set this goal in the first place still resonate. If so, you’re probably best served by sticking it out for a little while longer. If not, then it may be time to make a change after all. Only you can know the right answer.
Setting and working toward a goal is about more than just what you accomplish. It’s about what you learn in the process – about your habits, your mindset, your priorities and motivators. Making the most of these lessons requires a flexible approach when it feels like your goals just don’t fit anymore.