Know When to Give Up on Goals

January 2, 2013 Katharina Lochner

How Much Perseverance Makes Sense?

It is New Year. Traditionally, this is the time for New Year’s resolutions. Last year, we learned that in order to be successful with our resolutions, we have to limit the number of commitments, that we have to set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound), that we should tell others about our commitment and that we are not supposed to be frustrated by setbacks. But how much perseverance makes sense? And when is it time to give up on a goal?

In an article in the Harvard Business Review, Dorie Clark gives three reasons to abandon one’s goals:

  • When goals have adverse consequences.
  • When goals impede other objectives.
  • When goals are no longer appropriate.

Let’s say your New Year’s resolution is to get in shape, and in order to have a measurable goal, you define “being in shape” as “running a half marathon”. But your training regime is very hard, and you hurt your knee – an adverse consequence. Due to the amount of time you invest in your training, you hardly ever get to see your friends any more, although you had committed to spending a few hours with them every week – the goal impedes another objective. Your friend asks you to go cycling with him at regular intervals and due to this exercise, you get in good shape – your marathon goal is no longer appropriate because you achieved what you wanted by other means.

On PositivePsychologyNews, Sulynn Choong suggests a number of questions that you can ask yourself when thinking about giving up on a goal:

  • Does it really matter in the long run?
  • Am I enjoying what I am doing?
  • Am I just chasing a whimsical dream or is this dogged pursuit in line with my life goals?
  • Is the goal worth the costs?

Thus, New Year can be considered not only the time for goal setting, but also the time for goal reviewing. Consider the goals you are currently pursuing and decide for yourself if they are worth it. The questions stated above may help you do so. Once you have decided on the goals you want to pursue, make them SMART goals, tell others about them, and don’t be frustrated by setbacks.

About the Author

Katharina Lochner

Dr Katharina Lochner is the former research director for the cut-e Group which was acquired by Aon in 2017. Katharina is now a researcher and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences Europe in Iserlohn, Germany. In her role at cut-e, she applied the research in organizational and work psychology to real-world assessment practice. She has a strong expertise in the construction and evaluation of online psychometric tools.

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