Unlisted: Missing Goals

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Everyone misses a goal at some point in life. It’s part of being human, and it’s part of the learning process. It might be missing a professional deadline and losing a contract. A school assignment is not working quite as expected, and you get a failing grade. Or, you may not lose all the weight you wanted for that special event. Unfortunately, we’re surrounded by elders, peers, and the media who all say that missing a goal is a bad thing. It becomes ingrained that missing a target is failing on our part.

The thing is, it’s not a failing. Missing goals are reasonable, and it’s okay when it happens.

When coping with a chronic illness, missing goals becomes commonplace. We might miss a professional deadline because we were too fatigued to work. We miss weight goals because exercising is impossible with a numb limb. Or we slow down internal self-improvement goals because we give in to the temptation to revert to negative past behaviors.

Whatever the reason, missing personal goals happen. Everyone does it, and that’s okay. It’s time to stop focusing on what external sources tell us about missing a target and recognize them for the learning experiences they are.

The Frustration

When you miss a goal, it’s frustrating. Downright infuriating. Couple it with a chronic illness, and it becomes discouraging.

I missed so many goals while I was in graduate school. It contributed to my stress and overall frustration with the direction my life was taking. I saw school as a waste of time because I did not know how much “good” time I had left, and I was annoyed; I spent most of it in a toxic environment.

I labored under the impression that it would be another eight years before my MS moved into Secondary-Progressive (SPMS). I learned it’s doubtful I will move into SPMS, but even with this new information, I think my decision to take a leave of absence is the same.

Each time I miss a personal goal with my exercise or wellness journey, I feel shame. The phrases “I should know better,” or “I should try harder,” are always running through my head. I feel discouraged.

This frustration and discouragement lead me, and I am sure you to want to give up on continuing forward with that goal. It may even extend to other, unrelated goals. Often, when it comes to our personal goals, we get so focused on an arbitrary deadline we set for ourself that we remain inflexible when it cannot be met.

It’s at this moment give yourself permission to let go.

Give Yourself Permission

In graduate school, each missed goal stacked on top of the previously missed goal. It led me to get so frustrated with myself, that I froze as the goals piled up. I wouldn’t even argue I was treading water. I was drowning beneath the weight of goals and expectations. I had to walk away to pull myself out from underneath the massive mental block I found myself under.

I do not recommend it as a first resort, but sometimes it’s what needs to happen. We have to give ourselves permission to walk away and start fresh.

Rather than doing what I did, and walking away from your goals and responsibilities, consider giving yourself permission to take a break to reassess. Give yourself permission to extend out a personal deadline until a better time. Speak with others about your situation and ask for their patience until you are in a better space.

It’s rather freeing when you recognize you might miss a goal and say, “that’s okay, I will eventually achieve it.” I felt all the stress I bottled up melt away the moment I acknowledged I needed to take a break. While I was annoyed that I had little to show for the time spent, I did learn and gain a lot of personal knowledge from experience.

I have not quit graduate school, either. I am taking a break until I am emotionally ready to start over again and in a less toxic environment. My path was not as quick as I expected, but I will eventually see it through.

Refocusing Goals

I refocused my graduate school goals. I was on the fast-track plan of getting my PhD. in six years, but it wasn’t what I really wanted. Realistically, I am on the longer-term path, and I may get my degree after twenty years, fourteen years behind my original timeline.

When you don’t meet your goals, try to refocus them. If you want to lose a certain amount of weight by a specific date and you know that isn’t possible, refocus on a different number. Read up, from credible sources, about how everyone struggles with those particular pounds. Know that you are not alone.

Or, if you wanted to achieve something by a particular milestone and you aren’t quite there, refocus to something more manageable. Focus on a similar goal that can be a stepping-stone for that keystone achievement.

The key is to keep yourself moving forward and prevent you from looking at missed goals as failures.

Celebrating What You Did Do

When we miss a goal, we rarely look at what we did accomplish along the way. We forget the five pounds lost, the personal records set, the milestones achieved while trying to attain a specific goal. Celebrate what was accomplished and look to it as your motivation.

Don’t focus on what you missed. Look at where you are now.

Try to feel uplifted, rather than discouraged. Reward yourself, healthily, for what was accomplished. Then continue forward with your goals.

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