I’ll make this easy on you. When should you abandon a goal?
You should abandon a goal when that goal is infringing on more important things; be it other goals, other people, or your own well-being.
Goal-wise, 2011 was a complete bust for me.
Historically I am awful – awful – with setting and meeting goals. So it was probably not the best idea to try to change that in a year of big transition and general displacement. I’m not sure what I was thinking.
Well, I was probably thinking that progress needed to be made and that something was better than nothing. And I think I was probably right about that. But maybe I didn’t go about it in the best way.
For starters, I made wildly ambitious goals. On their own they would have been too much to tackle at one time, but combined with a good bit of travel, a big relocation, and not having our own place for the majority of the year made it downright silly for me to expect to accomplish such major new things.
Don’t get me wrong, it was good for me to have set the goals. I got much farther than I would have otherwise. But at some point they began tooling me around, suffocating me in a blanket of pressure that didn’t exist.
And then November came.
In the spirit of NaNoWriMo, and looking forward to launching this blog, I made myself a very outrageous goal of writing 50,000 words of content during the month of November. Now there is a slight chance I could hit this goal under the right circumstances. But with a revolving door of guests in a house that wasn’t settled yet and with the holidays quickly approaching… well… these were not the right circumstances.
I quickly fell behind. Which meant that what I would have to execute daily to make the goal was accelerating with each passing day. I felt the pressure piling. As it became obvious that I wouldn’t meet the goal, I became pissed about it and pissed about everything that was (or that I thought was) keeping me from completing it. I wasn’t throwing dishes exactly… I just had this underlying bad attitude all day. Each day. Many. Days.
But a bad attitude is not something I accept for myself, and as I began to notice it I took it as a cue to ask where it was coming from. I stopped, asked, and discovered what I shared above. And there it was, the great unveiling. I suddenly realized that I didn’t actually HAVE to reach this goal. The goal was something I set. It was a good goal. It was good to aim and to try and to see how it felt and how it would go. But it was far from mandatory. This pressure was self-inflicted, and unnecessary.
So I punted the goal. Like that yoga move of deflecting distracting thoughts I just let it float on by.
Immediately I could breathe again. And rather than be upset that I had not reached this obnoxious goal, I was able to celebrate what I had accomplished – which was that in one of my busiest months of 2011 I had managed to produce around 26,000 words of raw content, which is much, much more than I had ever done before. I hadn’t met my goal, but I had met my aim.
The purpose of the goal was to challenge me in my writing. To see how it felt and to see what I could do. I may not have hit the target, but the purpose was fulfilled. And by walking away from the goal at the right time, I allowed my other priorities (in this case joy and my home life) to remain in their rightful place rather than forcing them to bow to some unnecessary goal.
With some goals (like employer-imposed deadlines), hitting the target is crucial. But when it isn’t, recognizing when you’ve become a slave to your goal and breaking free is not failure, but success at a bigger thing (keeping your priorities in order).
In short, goals should be a tool. If you become the tool, abort!
Are there any goals you need to re-examine? Put another way, have you been putting a healthy personal and family life on the back-burner to pursue self-imposed aims? When was the last time you rested and cleared your mind? If it’s been a while, it might be time to re-evaluate. Maybe it’s just the timeframe that needs to be adjusted. Maybe you need to scale back, editing and scrapping certain aspects of your aims for the time being. Or maybe you need to just let it float on by.
What do you think? Am I wrong about this? Are there other good reasons to abandon (or rethink) your goals? Most of you are much more experienced than I am with goal-setting… what have you learned?