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What to Do With Unmet Goals

Here are some ideas on how to confidently transition from this year’s reality to next year’s possibilities.

It’s four days before the new year and I’m several books short of my Goodreads goal (64 percent, to be exact). The task bar on my Goodreads page passive-aggressively taunted me when I checked it last week: “There are still 14 days left. You can do it!” — as if I’d read more in two weeks than I did in the last six months. “Get inspired by friends,” a Goodreads email promised, showing me two of my friends who had already surpassed their more audacious goals.

Let’s be honest: this isn’t the first year I came up short on my New Year’s goals — reading or otherwise. It certainly isn’t the end of the world to miss a goal, but why set goals if I most likely won’t reach them?

Instead of ditching this year’s goal and refusing to set new ones, here are some ideas on how to confidently transition from this year’s reality to next year’s possibilities.

Take stock of what you did accomplish this year. Maybe you didn’t organize your closet. Maybe your good intentions of getting into shape stayed exactly that: intentions. But maybe you did go through your clothes and donate several items you haven’t worn in a while. Maybe you started exercising semi-regularly instead of once in a blue moon. Even if you didn’t reach your goal, you probably took some steps toward achieving it. I didn’t read as many books as I’d hoped, but I think I read more than I would have without that goal.

Evaluate which goals you want to recycle and how you might tweak them. I might decrease my booklist goal for next year so I’m more likely to reach it. Then again, I think keeping my goal as it is could push me to incorporate reading into my daily routine more than I did this year. After all, now I realize how much time it can take. Look over the goals you set months ago. Some might not seem as timely or necessary now, but others might still stand out. Are they still important to you? What other goals might be more important, and how could that affect these goals? There’s no need to simply recycle a goal simply because you didn’t meet it the first year. But if you still want to achieve it, go for it. You could also adapt it to reserve time and energy for other goals.

Ask God to guide your goal setting and your follow-through, and to help you be open to whatever plot twists and forks in the road He brings you. Two years ago, my goals included growing a freelance business. But a few months into the new year, I started a new full-time job, leaving at least some of my earlier goals irrelevant. I’m so grateful that God doesn’t consult our personal goals before guiding us through life. If a big change forces you to pause or set aside a goal mid-year — or even in the first two weeks of January — know that it isn’t a loss to change course due to God’s leading.

A word about comparison

As fallen humans, we’re innately drawn to comparison and envy, but social media of any kind can make it worse. It’s easy to resent social media friends’ Pinterest-perfect successes, LinkedIn promotion announcements, Instagram-worthy snapshots and, yes, even their Goodreads accomplishments. But don’t be fooled: Every person you know holds disappointments in some area of their life, regardless of what it looks like on social media (or even in conversation). As Aslan told Shasta in “A Horse and His Boy,” “I tell no one any story but his own.” Rejoice with those who meet their goals without letting it define your own contentment with where God has you right now. Be ready to support your friends in whatever hard thing they’re facing, too, even if it looks like they have everything together.

There’s always next year

Lord willing, we have a whole year ahead of us. Think of it: 365 days when anything could happen. Maybe you’ll surpass your goals, like my Goodreads buddies. Or maybe you’ll reevaluate halfway through the year and chuck some of your goals. Or maybe you’ll keep working on a goal but ultimately not meet it before the ball drops at the end of the year. I’ve been there, done that with all of these possibilities, and I’m OK with that. My goals are simply guidelines for how to focus my time and energies right now.

If you want to set some goals, go for it. Then go live life.

Copyright 2022 Lauren Dunn. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

Lauren Dunn
Lauren Dunn

Lauren Dunn is an education reporter for World News Group. She loves stories (especially the good ones), making pizza (usually double pepperoni), and spending time with friends and family. Lauren has lived most of her life in Wichita, Kan., but still regularly gets lost when driving around town.

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