In just a few short weeks, it will be the start of a new year. And, with the start of a new year always comes the obligatory goal setting exercises. I set goals every year and I bet you do too. My goals relate to both my personal and professional life.
Right now, however, it’s the end of the year. It’s time to revisit those 2018 goals that were set in January. And evaluate them. And celebrate the hits! And acknowledge the misses.
My first thought when a friend recently asked me that very question took me back to second grade, when I bombed a spelling test. Naturally, my goal was to bring home a test with an A+ (and a smiley face) at the top. Unfortunately, the result was the opposite.
I panicked, hiding the “evidence,” the graded test, underneath our family room couch. As you might guess, my mom found the test when she was vacuuming the cushions. Uugh. I fessed up, and admittedly felt huge relief after not having to carry around the burden of the failed test, and worse, the fact that I hid it.
The example I share immediately highlights two things you should not do when a goal is not achieved: panic and hide. What else should you not do? Ruminate. Beat yourself up. Question your self-worth.
What should you do instead? Here are some suggestions.
- Ask yourself, did I do everything I possibly could to achieve the goal? (In the case of the spelling test, did I study as much as I should have?) Did I construct a plan to achieve it? (Should I have studied over multiple nights?) Did I stick to that plan? (Clearly, not.) Did I benchmark my progress throughout the year and tweak the plan if needed? (Hey, I was only in second grade.) But you get the idea. Now is the time to be brutally honest with yourself.
- Reflect, did I ask for help if I was derailed at some point? Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is a sign of strength. Most people love to help others achieve a goal, and would appreciate your help, too, in achieving theirs. (I bet my mom would have studied with me.) What goes around, comes around. (I know mom would have found some way I could help her!)
- Look at the goal with fresh eyes. Was it realistic? Was it measurable? Would there have been an interim goal that could have served as a stepping stone to this goal?
In short, identify the lessons learned from the missed goal and apply those lessons to your new goals.
I’d like to tell you that “the spelling test incident” inspired me to study spelling nonstop, and that I went on to win the National Spelling Bee. I didn’t. But, computers became the norm, and with that came spell check. Phew. Time for a new goal!
It’s natural to grieve a missed goal and the possibilities that came with it. Go ahead and lick your wounds. Then, let it go. Look forward. Re-frame success. 2019 is here. It’s a new year, with new possibilities and new goals to be set and achieved. Your second grade self knows that you’ve got this. I know it too. So much good is in store for you!