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Future Health

Beware of Lofty Goals

September 8, 2021 

Setting goals is a popular behavioral technique widely regarded as beneficial for accomplishing tasks and helping people get from where they are, to where they want to be.

While figuring out what we should aspire to and making plans to realize those aspirations is important, it is also crucial to avoid setting goals that are too lofty, unrealistic or audacious.


Studies show that when we repeatedly fail to reach goals that we set, our performance in that area declines. The harsh reality of goals is that the outcome is binary – the result is either success or failure. If the standards of the goal are met entirely, then we tend to perceive success. Anything less than total adherence to the standards of the goal is often deemed as a failure.


Researchers postulate that goals motivate people only when they are achieved, and that failing to reach goals has the opposite effect. In fact, research shows that unachieved goals can induce negative emotions such as unworthiness. When we do not achieve our goals, studies show we sometimes even lie to ourselves and others in order to cover up our perceived failure.


In order to get the most from goal setting, experts suggest that strict goals should mainly be limited to those that are short term, realistic, and attainable. They should have deep meaning to us, and not be entirely based on the expectations of others.


By living more in the moment, and keeping thoughts of the future on the back burner, we may be better able to elucidate the issues in our lives that demand immediate attention. This allows us to take action, day by day, to accomplish the small things – and together, these small goals help us reach the big picture aspirations without the risks of overreaching and derailing.