We’ve all done it. We’ve set a goal for ourselves and simply failed to reach it. Sometimes we don’t even get close. What happens after that? We feel like a failure. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve failed at a diet, and I’ve chronicled my personal finance failures here in detail.
It’s very easy for people to take a missed goal and transform it into a perspective that you’re a failure, that you can’t do it, when often you’re quite capable of doing it. Here are five great techniques for dealing with not meeting goals and keeping your mindset positive so that you can tackle goals with a great outlook in the future.
Spend some time figuring out exactly why you failed. Don’t just stand there thinking, “I’m a failure.” Ask yourself why you didn’t meet the goal. Did you set the goal without really understanding how difficult it was? Did you not have a good plan for reaching it? Was the goal simply unrealistic to begin with? Did an unforeseen event happen that derailed you? All of these are vital factors for understanding why exactly you didn’t meet your goal.
Teach yourself how to handle simple failures. I’ve found it useful throughout my life to practice hobbies that involve regular failures that you can overcome through diligence and persistence. For me, it’s usually been a musical instrument; for my wife, actually, juggling was really important for teaching her how to fail and recover. Once you learn how to deal with small failures with a realization that they’re just a lesson and not an indication of a great personal flaw, it becomes much easier to look at a missed goal and understand that it’s a way of telling you things you need to do to succeed.
Ask for help. Most goals are easier to reach with a support structure in place. Ask for help from family, friends, and coworkers on whatever level you feel comfortable with, even if it is just someone to talk to about the challenges you’re facing. You can often find advice, consolation, and emotional support, and sometimes much more than you expect. Many times, help is just the thing you need to turn a failure into a success.
When you define your next goal, try planning it in more detail. Set a lot of very specific milestones for your goal. For me, weekly milestones for any goal do a good job of keeping me focused and on track, along with constant reminders of these milestones. The best part is that you can use failure to help yourself set these milestones. For example, when I dieted in the past, I lost a ton of weight right off the bat, then gave up the diet and the weight entirely came back. By setting weight milestones, I could feel that I was just ahead of pace and thus could “breathe” a bit and enjoy a few meals out and still be working towards my overall goal.
Set small, short term goals rather than immense ones. Another approach is to simply focus on smaller-scale objectives. For me, every time I have set an immense goal, like losing fifty pounds in a year, it collapsed under the sheer weight of itself. Instead, I’ve found that setting a goal of losing one pound each week works much, much better because the goal is very tangible and also because the goal is very immediate.
Above all, never forget that not meeting a goal does not mean that you are a failure, it just means you need to look more carefully at the goals you are trying to set.