Why It’s Okay to Change Your Goals and How to Know When To

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Have you ever been working on a goal and started to feel burnt out? Or had a major life event that made your goal stress you out more than it inspires you? Sometimes it’s okay to change your goals and in this article, we’ll talk about how to do that.

Not only is it okay to change your goals, it can even accelerate growth. Changing your goals helps you take advantage of new opportunities, keeps you motivated, and can prevent burnout. You’ll know it’s time to change your goals when you feel overwhelmed, lack fulfillment, or encounter a major setback.

After almost 20 years of setting and achieving goals, I’ve changed a lot of my goals over the years. 

It’s always amazed me at how it’s often just what I need to re-ignite the passion for personal growth that got me to set goals in the first place. And it’s kept me from pushing myself too hard when I’ve hit roadblocks.

Let’s jump right into it!

Why Changing Your Goals Regularly is Good For You

Look around you right now and find a small object. It can be a rock or a pen or anything little. Now close one eye and hold it as close to your open eye as you can. 

What do you see? The object blocks most of your view, right?

Now, extend it out at arm’s length. How much can you see now? The entire room becomes visible when you hold the item away from you.

Sometimes your problems and even your goals can be like the object—blocking your view from the big picture. Only by altering your perspective and looking around at other things can you see clearly.

The problem is, when you’re stuck in that tunnel vision that having the object or goal so close to your face brings, it’s impossible to know what else you should or could be working on to grow faster.

That’s why you need to be open to changing your goals and recognizing that doing so can bring greater growth. When you let go of the stranglehold you sometimes have on your ambitions, you’ll have a more balanced approach to improving your life.

It also allows you to be more fluid when unexpected setbacks come. Or when you get an exciting chance to do something amazing that you’ve always wanted to do.

If you’re always stuck in “don’t quit for anything” mode, you’ll miss out on all the benefits that can come from wisely improving your goals as you work on them. But you have to pay attention to know the right timing to change your goals.

How to Know When You Should Change Your Goals

There are a few main situations in which you might want to change your goals:

  • You aren’t seeing progress
  • You set the wrong goals in the first place
  • You’re burnt out or going through something tough and you need a break
  • A new opportunity has come up that you might want to take advantage of

When you’re not seeing any progress, sticking to your goals is like this quote that is wrongly attributed to Einstein:

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Anonymous

If you find yourself in this position, it’s best to adjust your goals slightly. Change only your action plan at first and see if that helps. You might discover that lifting weights has a bigger effect on your weight loss goal than your previous plan to run every day, for instance.

Whenever you start to feel disconnected from your goals, it’s a sign that you’ve set the wrong goals in the first place. You’ll have to spend some time figuring out whether this is the case or if you’re just tired from having worked hard.

But if you do discover that you’ve set extrinsic goals, or the kind of goals that you don’t really want but that others want for you, it’s time to change them completely.

Sometimes life gets tough and you need a break. Pay attention to times when you feel overly stressed out and like you can’t stay afloat. If this is you, then it’s time to adjust your goals or pause them altogether.

I had this just last year when my grandpa died while I was on vacation and work was busiest. Deciding to step away from my goals for a time was the best decision, and it helped me immensely.

And finally, there are times when a new opportunity comes up that you just can’t pass up. In these instances, it’s more than okay to change your goals and let go of ambitions that would keep you from something greater.

How to Go About Changing Your Goals When You Find You Need to

The first step is to identify the goal you need to change. If you think you’re in this situation, turn the four scenarios from above into questions and ask them for each of your goals:

  • Am I not seeing any progress with this goal?
  • Is this not the right goal for me? Did I set it to impress somebody else?
  • Am I going through something difficult right now?
  • Is there a new opportunity that I could take advantage of if I gave up on this goal?

Once you’ve figured out which goals to change, you need to decide how to change it. Use the framework that John Doerr teaches in Measure What Matters. With each of your goals, you have four options:

  • Continue
  • Update
  • Start
  • Stop

More often than not you’ll decide to continue working on your goals. A lot of the time everything is going well and there’s no need to fix something that isn’t broken.

If you’ve found that some external event is getting in the way of your plans, it’s time to update your goals. You can modify your action steps or expand your timeline by adjusting your weekly targets.

It’s time to start a new goal whenever you complete a goal, which can sometimes happen in the middle of your goal-tracking time period. Be careful not to start something new if your current goals are going well though. It’s easier to make progress in an area that you’re already growing in than it is to improve something you haven’t worked on lately.

And finally, you’ll occasionally need to stop working on a goal altogether. This can happen if you’ve got external events making it hard to stick to your plans, in which case you’d just put your goal on pause. Or if you find that you’ve set goals that aren’t really right for you, you can quit them completely.

Wrap Up

In summary, it’s a good idea to change your goals regularly because life changes and so do you. You’ll sometimes discover that a setback is making it tough to stick to your goals. Or you’ll find that you didn’t set the right goals in the first place. 

To find out if you need to change your goals, check if you’ve stopped seeing progress and aks yourself why. Or, you may have a new opportunity come up that you need to set your other goals aside for.

Once you know you need to change a goal, you need to figure out whether you have to continue it, update it, start a new goal, or stop it completely.

Remember, you can and should change your goals. Doing so might be just the thing you need to reach the next level.