How to Achieve Your Goals When Things Don’t Go as Planned
When I saw Julia’s face, I knew it was bad news.
Due to internal politics within her client’s organization, the big deal we were awarded a month ago was no longer ours.
Julia was one of my best client coverage officers. She had worked hard to win a role in the deal and we had celebrated with our senior managers. Now this was all being reversed just days before the deal was to be announced.
I picked up the phone and told our big boss in New York the bad news. We were out. It was over.
But Julia wasn’t ready to give up even though the rest of us had written off any hope of getting back in the deal.
Armed with a four-page handwritten note explaining why they should include us, she waited outside her client’s office building at 6am and had an impromptu meeting as he walked into the building.
Two days later, we were back in the deal! Miraculous.
Just as Julia wasn’t ready to write off our chances for getting back into the deal, this is not the time to write off the rest of the year no matter how dire the circumstances might seem.
Instead, we can all do what Julia did and make a plan for the time remaining. Let’s talk about how.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- Setting goals
- Creating action steps
- Measuring progress
Let’s start with your goals.
What is success for the rest of the year?
A good starting point is to look at what you hoped to accomplish this year and where you are now.
If you feel like you’re on track, then keep going. But if you’re disappointed that you haven’t made more progress or feel it’s impossible to achieve your original goals, this is a good time to take a step back and reassess.
Are these goals still ones you aspire to? Do they still feel energizing?
If not, let those goals go and feel good about having made a conscious choice to replace them with ones that do have meaning for you. On the other hand, if you still aspire to these goals, then what’s a better deadline to set?
Either way, what matters most is to get rid of the feeling of disappointment weighing on you. Disappointment brings a negative energy that drains you. It’s like carrying heavy rocks in your backpack.
Instead, redefine success for the rest of the year. You’ll feel lighter and better able to move forward successfully and make the most of the time you have.
Once you’ve identified the goals you aspire to for the rest of the year, it’s time for step 2.
Focus on action steps
Here’s where you’ll want to take your bigger goals and break them down into small, actionable steps. They could even be baby steps.
In fact, identifying the tiniest possible steps will serve you best of all. This makes it easier for you to get going and reinforces the likelihood you’ll keep going because you’ll be setting yourself up to constantly be winning.
For example, I had a project I didn’t start because it seemed too big. I felt like I needed a 3-hour block of time just to get it started. So I kept putting it off. Two months later, it still sat on my to-do list, making me feel guilty and like a bad person.
It was only when I broke down the project into tiny steps that I finally got it going.
Step 1 was to gather the papers and files needed and put them in one place. Step 2 was to look at them. Step 3 was to write down the people I needed to get to buy-in. Step 4 was to draft an email I could use to reach out. And so forth.
I never did find that 3-hour block of time, but I ended up getting the project done through a series of small action steps sprinkled across the week.
Which brings us to the next step.
Measure your progress
One of our senior managers liked to say, “what gets measured gets done”. And while she was referring to hitting our revenue targets, this applies equally to any goals you have for your career and life.
The key is to find ways to measure your success along the way and not just at the very end. That’s where the small action steps are critical.
These can act as mini-milestones that you get to celebrate every day, every week, every month. This is how you can make every day count and build momentum and positive energy because you’re constantly winning.
It could be putting a smiley face next to that item on your to-do list, getting up and doing your happy dance or giving yourself a fist pump. Choose simple ways to celebrate that bring you joy.
Do what makes you feel good about yourself.
What if you’re exhausted and can’t do another thing?
At one point in my career, I had run myself into the ground. Looking back, I was burned out.
In a way, that made it easier to set a goal for myself. And that goal was not to do more things, but rather to take care of myself.
So if you’re feeling exhausted, maybe it’s time to widen your set of possible goals to choose from and include some that are about self-care.
Just as I needed to focus on preserving my health and well-being, this might be the perfect time for you to set aside the doing and striving goals and give yourself permission to focus on simply being for now.
Just don’t give up on the year
Time is the only thing you can’t get back or make more of, so don’t give up on the time remaining between now and year end.
Giving up on the year is giving up on yourself. And that’s the kind of mindset that leads to inaction and regret. And that will weigh heavily in an already heavy year.
There’s a vast difference between giving up and choosing to take a different direction, even if you’re not sure what that direction is at the moment. The former leads to a feeling of defeat, of looking backwards at an unsatisfying ending.
The latter is a call to look forward to a new horizon. To turn your head in another direction where you can make better progress toward an aspiration that’s energizing to you.
Remember, nothing in life is wasted. These are all experiences that make you who you are. So take the lessons and move forward.
There’s still time to make the most of the year
This is the ideal time to step back and take stock of how you want to make the most of the final quarter of the year. As you reflect, remember to:
- Set goals – give yourself permission to redefine success for the rest of the year and choose new goals to suit your current situation
- Create action steps – breaking down your bigger goals into smaller steps will help you get to done
- Measure your progress – this allows you to celebrate your wins along the way and build momentum to keep going
So when you feel like giving up on the year, remember to channel your inner Julia and give yourself permission to make a new plan.
You don’t have to go to the lengths that Julia did, but when you know you’ve taken all the actions you can take, you’ll have no regrets. And that means you’ll travel lighter through the rest of the year.
So which step will help you make the most of the rest of the year?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Inspiring narrative to reinvent path towards desired outcomes!
Glad you liked this Fathima!
Excellent, well-expressed and timely guidance. Thank you, May.
Thanks for sharing. I’m setting a goal to finally sit for that professional engineering certification that I have put off for a while now.
Awesome, AR! I’m so pleased to hear you’re taking action. Go for it!
Thanks, I am happy to have read today’s article. I am going to stay focused and finish this year with my data analytics training and certification. Next year, get a role in that field.
That sounds like a wonderful plan, Ken! Keep going! And I’m happy you read today’s article too 🙂
An excellent piece! This advice can help people, no matter what they are doing!!! Since I am now retired from what I once did (and loved doing), but have managed to keep active, I find this advice extremely helpful!
That’s great, Ann! You are a shining example of someone who makes the most of every situation you face. I love how you always look forward and keep going.
Thank you for reminding us that it’s okay to reassess our original goals for 2020. Most people’s lives have changed, because of the unexpected circumstances we’ve faced this year. It only makes sense that our priorities and goals would change as well. I have reassessed what’s really important to me, and have made it my goal to focus my attention and efforts on those things for the remainder of 2020. I’ve also given myself permission to let go of the original goals that weren’t met. That has truly lifted a weight off of me, and has brought me peace for where I am right now, and how I want to move forward.
Thanks a million. The year is come to close and I wanna finish the year so well. I decided to carry out a challenge with 20 different activities. Sometimes I wanna write off. When I was reading your item, I felt renew with your suggestions. I am sure that I am going to the challenge.
Thank you for this, May! Love your posts 🙂 With everything going on, I was working myself into the ground (I think out of anxiety among other emotions) and it was noticeable at the end of summer. I’m grateful for my current role and boss who encouraged me to find my balance – my focus is on self-care and hope to have a new certification in hand by the end of year. Definitely an insightful read. Stay safe and well!