The Importance of Not Meeting a Goal

I am a firm believer in goal setting.

But I am not a firm believer that the goals we set are necessarily where we need to end up.

Eight months ago, I joined an online Query Challenge. This was a challenge through a writing blog to see who could match a goal of sending out 10 writing queries a month. It was the perfect goal for me to kickstart a more serious attitude towards my writing career.

At the end of each month, one of the writers would be chosen at random to receive a writin-related prize. And at the end of the year, the person with the most queries sent would get some big prize.

I love that kind of incentive! There are no losers.

So I set to work and for several months worked on sending out my queries, knowing that I would have to post my numbers for all to see every four weeks. I didn’t get to 10, but I certainly sent out more than I would have. Some queries I sent just to say I sent something, even though I knew it wouldn’t get a response.

Then, one day, one of my queries landed me a book deal.

Holy crappola.

So I quit the query challenge.

If the most important thing in goal making is meeting the goals, then I failed.

I don’t believe the most important thing in making goals is meeting them. It’s finding ourselves. Making the goal of writing a certain number of queries a month was the thing that got me moving forward. Then I found the path that moved me away from that goal towards something else entirely.

Making goals is an important tool in getting us to move forward. But it isn’t a failure if we don’t meet our goals. If we don’t meet our goals, it means one of three things:

1) We found another goal that led us down the path towards ourselves. (Sometimes this isn’t obvious like in the case of making a conscious decision to quit.)

2) We get distracted and hover for a while until remember our goals, which motivates us to move forward again.

3) The goals we made for ourselves are moving us forward, but in a direction that we aren’t supposed to be going. We instinctually know that it’s the wrong kind of goal, moving us away from ourselves, and that’s why we are so resistant to trying to meet them. (And why we are so attached to the idea that we have to meet them or we fail.)

Making goals increases enthusiasm. It gives us drive to do something new. It can even change our lives. They can also make us feel bad about ourselves instead of helping us recognize who we are.

If you don’t meet a goal, don’t blame yourself for being lazy, or unmotivated. If the kids can’t meet a goal, or don’t want to, it’s not a sign that they are lazy either. Instead, ask yourself if there is a better goal. Or if making goals is an excuse to run away from the real you.

Some tips on making goals:

1) Make big goals, little goals, specific goals and general goals. Make all kind of goals. But keep in mind that the more specific and small the goal, the more likely it will actually be attained. The more general and large, the more likely it will lead you somewhere you least expect.

2) Make goals that match who you are. Which kinds of goals have you had no problem meeting in the past? Which kinds of goals always seem to be hard to keep?

3) Don’t try to make too drastic of changes or demand something of yourself that is unreasonable or requires a complete life overhaul. Think baby steps.

4) Keep your list short. Focus on one or two specific goals, and one or two general goals. If you find yourself forgetting the goals you’re supposed to be targetting, you probably have too many goals.

5) The only time is now. If you struggle with your goals, don’t beat yourself up for what you didn’t do this week, or this month. You probably needed to hover for a bit. Focus on what you can do now to move forward, then do it. Thinking about past inactivity increases our chances that we’ll stay inactive.

6) Most importantly – do what works. Use goal setting strategies that work for you and leave you and your kids feeling good about yourselves.

What kinds of goal setting experiences have worked for you? Have you ever had the experience of setting a goal, then because of that goal, being led in a different direction that was even better than your original plan?


2 Responses to “The Importance of Not Meeting a Goal”

  1. Kristen King Says:

    Tammy, I’m so glad you shared more info about this. :] Thanks!


  2. dancingboysmom Says:

    #5 is a particularly good point. Self-recrimination, however true it may be, can lead us quickly toward a place of immovability. I wonder why that is? It usually works best to say, “Well, gee, I didn’t do too great at that,” and go on than to sit around bemoaning our inadequacies.

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