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The Value of Your Unachieved Goals

The Value of Your Unachieved Goals

As a leader, you set goals (at least I hope you do). If you are a really good leader, you write your goals down and perhaps tell a few people about them for accountability. But even the most outstanding leaders don’t achieve all their goals. So, then what happens to those unachieved goals?

Are unachieved goals recycled, forgotten about, or unimportant?

Is goal setting really all about shooting for the stars and be happy with the moon type of thinking?

Sometimes, my tendency for literal thinking takes over and I feel every list and goal needs a checkbox next to it indicating whether you completed it or not. Well I have realized over the years that goals don’t have to be literal as great learning and growth can be achieved without completing 100% of the goal.

As the famous quote says “it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey”. I know this is a cliché but it is actually true in the pursuit of goal achievement.

The goals you set and the rewards you achieve in reaching them are merely the carrot (or ice cream) that takes you on the journey. The journey is where the growth happens, but without the goal, the journey often never happens.

Easy examples of the journey being more important than the goal come from my mountaineering expeditions and running marathons. When I tried to climb Mt. Logan, Canada’s highest mountain at 19,551 ft., I fell just short of the goal of standing on the summit of Canada. After 21 days of climbing, our team decided to stop 500 ft. short of the summit. We deemed the horrendous weather conditions, i.e.  -51oC wind chill and near zero visibility, too risky to continue.

Did we achieve our goal of standing on the summit of Mt. Logan? No! But did we learn a great deal on the journey? Absolutely!

Without ever having the courage to set such a lofty goal, my teammates and I would have missed out on the tremendous growth we gained in preparing for and executing the climb.

Perhaps another example could be setting a goal to make 10 sales calls a day and at the end of the week, you fall short on your goal by 13 calls. The goal/ carrot/ ice cream is to make 50 sales calls, which you did not archive. You can look at that result with disappointment of not reaching your goal or success that you made 37 calls, way more than any previous week.

They next time you fall short of achieving a goal, don’t be disappointed and relish in the learning that the journey provided which would not have happened unless you set the original goal.

Then there are the goals you set but never even start the journey to achieve them. Unfortunately, I still have these goals occasionally but instead of being upset with myself for not achieving them, I have come to realize they were simply not a high enough priority for me at the time. In this case, it is OK to recycle those goals or put them on the back burner for some time until they become a high enough priority for you.

“An unfulfilled goal with a journey is still a success”

Remember, the goals you have acted up on but did not achieve have provided much more learning and growth than you would have achieved without them in the first place, unless of course you didn’t make progress toward achieving your goals at all.

Action: Set one stretch goal this week that will take you on a journey with a fixed start and end date. Share your goal with me at

Until next week… Embrace the Adventurea