When Should You Give Up on Your Goals? The wrong reasons to keep going. . .

 In Goals

I recently wrote about how grit is a better predictor of success than talent or IQ.  Does that mean we should NEVER give up on our goals?  Actually there are some important indicators that it is time to quit or at least change our goals.  Consider the following situations.

  • The main reason you keep going is because of the time, money or effort you’ve already invested. (Sunk Cost) This can be a common mistake in businesses but also in our own personal or career goals.  Maybe you’ve earned your degree in accounting but now that you’ve spent some time in a few different jobs, you realize that the day to day life of an accountant is not a good fit for your personality.  It can be really hard to make a career shift when you feel like you don’t want to “waste” the effort you’ve invested in your education.
  • The reason for your goal has changed.  If something in your life or work has changed and the purpose of your goals no longer applies, you may need to re-evaluate them.  When I was a scientist in a biotechnology company, I had a goal to learn all I could about nuclear receptors (a common target for drug discovery).  After I was laid off and decided to switch careers, that goal had no value with my new focus to help people be more positive. It felt very strange to get rid of all the papers and files I had been saving.
  • Your enthusiasm for the goal has disappeared. This is more than short-term discouragement.  The vision and passion that you had is gone.  Maybe you were really excited to learn to play guitar because a friend was starting to take lessons and you talked about how fun it would be to practice and jam together.  After taking lessons for a couple of months, you just can’t muster the motivation to practice.  You keep going for a few more months, but the passion just isn’t there.  The idea seemed great but the reality ended up being a different experience than you expected.
  • You realize this goal doesn’t match your strengths and you should invest your energy into something you’re better at.  This can happen after you start a goal and learn more about yourself in the process.   The example of learning that your personality is not a good fit for the life of an accountant from #1 above is a good example.  Maybe you find you don’t have the attention to detail necessary to be really good at analyzing financial numbers but you do have a talent for seeing the big picture.

Our goals should be chosen to help us become our best selves and live our best lives.  But sometimes we forget that we do have a choice.  If something isn’t working out as expected, we have the power to tweak, change or completely get ride of a goal, even if it’s one we’ve had a long time.  Our goals are there to serve us, not to limit us or make our lives difficult.

Is it time you re-evaluated your goals?


Tina Hallis, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge.  She shares the Science of Success with organizations who want to create more positive workplaces and teams so they can activate their people’s performance.  

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