unrealistic goals

You are not a failure, your expectations were just unrealistic

Let me guess: You overallocated yourself on all of your goals, buckled when you got stretched too thin, and now you’re upset that you didn’t get everything done. Does that mean you’re a failure? Is a duck a failure because it can’t learn calculus? Of course not. That’s a bad goal for a duck.

I should know, I’m the king of setting bad goals. I beat myself up for stumbling on projects at work when I had zero training and no one to mentor me. I beat myself up for feeling discouraged on side hustles when they dragged on for months with no sign of progress. I beat myself up for beating myself up. Human beings are not machines. Giving myself an inhuman goal was the mistake, not missing the impossible deadline.

Yes, sometimes we are lazy and sometimes we realize when we are making a mistake and do it anyway. The unrealistic expectation here is “I can do this without creating an accountability system or plan or process to keep my goal on track.” Because missing your target does not make you a failure. You are capable of hitting your goal. We just need to set expectations which include the system that will get you there. Read that again.

To use a weight loss example: It’s unrealistic that you can lose 50 pounds in a week. It’s also unrealistic that you can lose 50 pounds in 10 weeks, by running a massive calorie deficit every day the entire time with no margin for error. But losing 50 pounds in a year, with some breathing room for holidays and reasonable cheat meals with a moderate deficit? That’s realistic. Still miss your target? Instead of beating yourself up, modify your plan. Add accountability, change the timeline, take smaller steps, or any other number of support structures. Just don’t beat yourself up over something in the past. Use it to learn and improve your system instead.

And what is realistic for some people is not realistic for others, so don’t waste time comparing yourself to other people. Choose your goal, make a plan that doesn’t require inhuman effort, and adapt later if you find you set the bar unrealistically high. Missing your original goal was not a waste of time – it was the cost we all pay for finding which systems do and don’t work for us.

I failed to apply Keto correctly for 3 months in my weight loss journey. Then I tried CICO meal prepping and suddenly the weight came off. I didn’t waste the first 3 months, it just took 3 months to find the right system for me. I still got to my goal. You think I care now that it took 3 months longer? Of course not, I’m just happy I stuck with it and feel healthy now. In the end all that matters is you find the system that gets you where you want to go.

What I’m trying to say is that you shouldn’t label yourself a failure because you missed your goal. Even if you made mistakes, it’s just not productive to tear yourself down. Being too aggressive and beating yourself up will make you resent the goal, not work harder. Most goals take time as well, so having a system that you can follow consistently is the single biggest factor in crossing the finish line. Create a goal based off of a system you know you can follow. Not all systems work for all people. But if you can take one small step towards your goal every day you will go much farther than if you fail to jump a mile on day 1 and then scream at yourself for being a failure. Haven’t you done that enough?

You are not a failure. You can reach your goals. You just need a system that can get you there.

Further Reading: If this post resonated with you then I think you would get a lot out of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. He presents a very practical framework about how to realize your goals by focusing on things you can control, aligning priorities with the outcome you want, and how to get the most out of working with others. It is a massive force multiplier no matter what walk of life you’re on, and contains many exercises that make things easy to understand. I started accomplishing my goals much faster after reading this book because I was focusing on the right things instead of beating myself up all the time – I hope it can help you too.

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