What do you do when you didn’t reach your goals? How do you dust yourself off and set new goals that you feel really positive about?

I’ve had a difficult relationship with goals. When I was a corporate lawyer goals were something that you had to achieve or there were negative consequences. Didn’t reach your goal of a set number of billable hours? No bonus for you.

Setting income goals in particular made me feel like a failure (that’s a tale for another time!).

It wasn’t until I began to look at goals in a different way that I found that failing wasn’t the disaster that it seemed, and that even a goal not reached provided valuable feedback for the kind of business I wanted to run and the kind of business owner I wanted to be.

If you didn’t reach your goals last year, or last quarter, then we need to look at both the emotional and the logical side of what happened.


Step 1: Give yourself a pat on the back


A what? I just told you I didn’t reach my goals! Why on earth would I congratulate myself for that?!

Three reasons.

Firstly, you set a goal in the first place. Many, many business owners don’t. You’ve taken the first step to maturing into the kind of business owner who gets things done.

Secondly, you knew you’d failed which means you were tracking your progress. Whether that tracking was a quick glance at your goals for the year or a detailed spreadsheet that you updated each month, it’s important to recognise you were tracking your progress towards a goal that you’d set.

Thirdly, you want to learn and grow. I know this because you’re here, reading these words. Others who have failed at their goals stop there – they give up entirely or they move ahead expecting something to magically change with this year’s goals.

If you haven’t already, give yourself that pat on the back.


Step 2: Have a rant and a rave

This is the step I’ve missed in the past and I wish I hadn’t. To move forward with the right mind set we need to unearth all of the negative feelings we have about our failures. Otherwise they linger and we find ourselves thinking, “It didn’t work last time, why will it work now”. That kind of thinking is going to kill your goals.

Grab a pen and a paper and set a timer for five minutes.

Then go to town with a rant and a rave about how you’re feeling about your goals. There is no right or wrong here. No one is ever going to read what you write.

Have a rant at the economy. The fact that you NEVER reach your goals. That there must be something wrong with you because everyone else gets their goals. Are you even a real business owner if you can’t reach the simplest of goals?

Get all of those thoughts out of your brain and onto the paper.


How do you feel now? Do you feel fired up or a bit down on yourself? Either is totally normal. I’ve felt both.

Fired up because THIS year is going to damn well be different.

Down because I feel like such a failure that once again I haven’t met my goals.

What you wrote down is GOLD when it comes to knowing what goals to set next and whether there are aspects of your mind set that you’ll need to work on in the year ahead.

Re-read what you wrote.

Are there any common threads?

Did you blame yourself for everything that happened? Did you blame everything and everyone else? Were you hard on yourself or kind to the point where you weren’t taking any responsibility?

Are there any skill gaps that need working on?

Bring forward any improvement areas into your new goals and actions.


Step 3: Get practical

Now that you’ve gotten the emotional side of what happened down on paper, let’s look at the objective view.

Ask yourself why you didn’t reach your goal from a practical point of view.

  • Did you set an 18 month goal within a 12 month time frame?
  • Did you miscalculate the time it was going to take to complete the goal?
  • Were there technology or team hitches along the way that delayed your progress?
  • Was the goal the wrong one for you and your business? When we set goals that we think we “should” set, we procrastinate working on them and they take much longer than usual to complete.
  • Did you take on too much so your goal was never going to be possible to achieve?
  • Did you lack the skills or resources to achieve your goal?
  • Did you avoid doing some of the work because your mind set got in the way?
  • Were there clear strategies in place to reach your goals?
  • Did you not have the systems (the workflows and processes) to make your goals achievable?

Once you’ve gone through this list you’ll have a much clearer view of what happened. It’s highly likely that there was nothing wrong with the goals themselves, rather it was the strategies (or lack of them) and the way you implemented those strategies that threw you off course.


Setting goals and making them happen is a skill to be learned and practised. It’s not a black and white situation where one person is good at goal setting, while another person is rubbish. We each have areas we excel in and areas where we trip ourselves up.

Getting to know the way you work, what you can lean into and what might need managing or changing is something to aspire to.

If you’d like to get tips about the systems you need to have in place to achieve your goals then sign up to my weekly newsletter.

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