Sticking to goals is key in achieving them, but goals should be a moving target, evolving as the situation, priorities, or consequences change. Our tendency is to set New Year’s goals once a year only to never look at them again. Sometimes the goals we set for ourselves a year, a month, or even a week ago are no longer a good fit, healthy, or appropriate, so it’s important to revisit goals regularly and revise them as necessary.
Last year I set a fitness goal for myself to go kickboxing three times a week. I wanted to get my workout done early in the morning so I didn’t need to worry about it during the day. I had already gotten into the habit of waking up at 5:30 am anyway and I thought exercising and getting my heart pumping would be a great way to start the day. I did the 6 am classes for two months. Although I felt good after each class and I was on my way to achieving my fitness goals, after revisiting my goal in the second month I decided to quit kickboxing.
We are continually told that we need to stick to our goals and see them through, and “quitters” can be seen as weak or less committed to results. However, it’s absolutely necessary to revisit goals on a routine basis to know if they are still serving us. If not, then we absolutely need to decide whether we need to change or abandon the goal. There are a few scenarios where goals will need to be changed or abandoned altogether.
Some goals get in the way of other priorities and objectives.
I realized that I was very tired and unfocused after kickboxing, and a few times caught myself crawling back into bed after my morning shower. But going to bed for another hour made me wake up groggy which didn’t help either. Adding just a half an hour of kickboxing to my morning routine pushed the rest of my schedule back by at least two hours and resulted in lost productivity. When I revisited my goal I realized it made more sense for me to sign up for another fitness activity that allowed me to exercise later in the evenings and weekends.
Some goals depend on other people and external factors.
Sometimes we do not have complete control over our goals as they depend on other plans and schedules – conditions that are normally out of our hands. For example, if you are building a house or renovating a commercial space to open your brick and mortar store, your goal for completion or opening date is often dependent on contractors, city workers, or permit and audit processing times. For these types of projects, it’s good to have a general goal and lay out the plan in as much detail as possible but be aware that this is still an estimate because you do not have control over all the components and the spinning wheels. Some goals require that we factor in more flexibility and adaptability than others. Regularly revisiting these types of goals and making adjustments as necessary ensures that your plan and projections are as realistic and up to date as they can be.
Some goals have negative consequences or are no longer appropriate.
Circumstances may make some goals inappropriate or no longer a fit with our current situation. A coaching client’s big goal was to own and run a yoga studio. She found the partners, got the license, and created a beautiful space in her community. She envisioned her goal, found the right resources, and made it happen. A few years into the business her relationship with her two business partners deteriorated and it became impossible for her to stay invested in the business. She eventually made the difficult choice to walk away for the sake of her mental health and happiness. Sometimes it’s necessary to completely abandon a goal because sticking with it has negative consequences or it’s not appropriate. It doesn’t mean that you are a quitter, it means you had the strength to walk away because you knew better.
We often think of progress as “sticking with it” and not giving up. But in the face of uncertainties, unexpected events, or changing landscapes, goals should be an ever evolving target. We have the freedom, and responsibility to change our goals or sometimes even abandon them all together, if it’s for the better. Because sometimes, progress means letting go.