Behavioral Finance

Why “Crushing” Your Goals Isn’t Always the Best

It’s mid-January, how are you feeling

Are you still fired up to accomplish your 2020 goals and New Year’s resolutions? Or has your motivation fizzled out already?

I recently saw a study on World Report that showed 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by mid-February. But, that’s actually good news! If this is true, it’s clear there is nothing wrong with us… but rather a problem with the tradition itself!

It’s heartbreaking, in a way. We’re full of motivation and start planning to create the best year ahead. And then BOOM we fail, and we beat ourselves up.

But wait a minute… what about all those goals we set from the previous year? Remember those? The reality is that most of us get to the end of the year and rather than take the time to go back and review our goals from a short 12 months earlier, we think SCREW it: the year is over, it’s time to plan for the next year, baby!

Over the past few years, I have started to realize that it’s not checking off a goal that’s important. In fact, that is the least powerful part. Yet, I have become accustomed to celebrating those wins. For example, I made this much money, I bought a new house, I saved X amount of money. But, should we be celebrating this stuff?

A good friend shared an insightful perspective on goals that has really changed how I view them.  He said, “we are obsessed with goals. But so many of us don’t achieve these goals. Often, we cannot find a way to bridge the future version or ourselves with the current reality. And then all we are left with is dreams that didn’t happen.”

So, does this mean goals shouldn’t matter? No, of course not. Goals provide us of a sense of purpose. A roadmap. However, as my good friend says, “setting a goal is not nearly as important as mastering the habits that will bring it to life.”

What does this all mean?

Personally, I find an incredible amount of value in going back and reviewing all the goals I set for the previous year.

  1. Does this goal still serve me and my life? Would I still set this as a goal this year?
  2. By achieving this goal, what value will be added to my life?
  3. Why did I not achieve this goal?

Over the years, I decided to change how I evaluate my success. Previously I based success on if I achieved a goal or not. Black or white.


I am starting to realize that it’s not necessarily the goal I am chasing; rather it’s the resulting life lessons, outcomes, and positive habits that I developed as a result of striving for the goal.

A personal example.

For instance, I had a certain savings goal for 2019. When I took time to review my 2019 goals, I noted that we fell short on this one. On the surface, falling short may appear as a failure. However, as I dig deeper into why I never hit this goal, I know that it’s because we spent our money in areas that we didn’t think about 12 months earlier when we were setting our goals. We ended up taking a few family trips (including three weeks in Mexico), built a patio, and simply spent more on family activities than we anticipated.

So, is this a failure? No, it’s not. Because a life goal of ours is to enjoy our quality time with our kids in the present moment. This fills our buckets. I mean when you look at it, we really only have 18 summers with our kids until they go off and do their own things. We want to take advantage of our most precious asset… our limited time.

For me, the key is taking time to reflect and uncover the underlying lesson. And maybe, these lessons are more valuable than the goal itself.

Did you have any financial goals that you felt short of achieving? As you really look at them, can you pull out any lessons to bring forward this year?

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Maria @ Handful of Thoughts
    January 31, 2020 at 6:55 pm

    Totally agree with you Shaun, a goal doesn’t have to be black and white. If you made a savings goal of 50% are you a failure if you only reach 49%?!

    With this years goals I really sat down and tried to come up with that habits that I would like to incorporate to support those goals. Whether I achieve them or not isn’t the point. Just adopting the habits brings me closer to achieving what I call a Financial Freedom Mindset. .

    • Reply
      maslyks1
      February 3, 2020 at 8:03 pm

      Thanks for comment. Couldn’t agree anymore. Developing positive habits is the single best thing we can do! Love the notion of a Financial Freedom Mindset. I think that’s what people are actually striving for!

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