When It’s Time to Cut Back on a Goal


Goal-setting is a tricky business, and one I love discussing the ins and outs of setting smart goals and reaching them regularly.

One of the most mistaken ideas out there in goal-setting is that you always need to be increasing your goals. This is a mind trap I’ve fallen into many times – believing that with each and every passing year I need to increase the metric for something on my annual goal list.

The reality, though, is that always increasing your goals can be just plain stupid, and can run in direct contrast to one of the keys in the SMART goal-setting framework: relevancy.

Smart goals must always be relevant to who you are in a given season of life. In my case, when faced with setting my annual goals for 2014, I had to come up against a very relevant reality of my upcoming 2014.

That reality?

I’m having a baby. Yup, I’m just a few months away from welcoming a long-awaited wee one into the world. I’m not the first person to have been told that babies take time, energy, and effort to keep in pristine, working order;) As such, it made sense for me when looking at my goal list that I think of this blaringly relevant life event in my life and consider how it would affect my goals.

And so, I thought about where I could cut back. For years I have set reading goals, and have consistently been increasing them — in 2013 hitting my peak of exceeding my goal to read 200 books in one year. And although I love reading and it serves as my outlet, peace-maker, and primary hobby, it does take time to reach a goal of reading 200 books, and time might just be at a premium for me in 2014.

As such, I’ve taken the step to reduce my 2014 reading goal back to 150 books (which was my goal in 2012). Does it feel like I’m throwing in the towel? In some ways, I admit it does. After all, I feel in my heart I could hit 200 if I just tried. But is it smart goal-setting to think of the relevancy of a goal in your particular season of life? Absolutely. This just isn’t the year I need to be stretching myself to read more.

(I’m a couple months into my 2014 reading goal and am chugging away already. (So far, I’m at 42.) See my ongoing list of books read here.)

Is there a goal in your life that you may need to reduce this year? If so, what is it — and do you feel liberated in cutting back?

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3 thoughts on “When It’s Time to Cut Back on a Goal

  1. Above all, Claire, prepare to no longer be in complete control. Worried? Don’t be. This humbling step in life brings with it much wisdom, starting with focusing less on quantity and more on quality.

  2. No need to cut too far back on the reading! Just as you must nourish your baby through eating for two, you can read for two, and provide nourishment for language development. You may find yourself reading aloud to keep yourself awake during those early hour feedings. I recommend “Sing a Song of Popcorn” one of the loveliest collections of poems for children and adults. It’s out of print but readily available used. Enjoy!

  3. Thank you for your post! I too am having a baby in a few months and it’s made me evaluate all of my many goals. Between my full-time job, my writing practice, exercise, going back to school, and teaching a night class, it is a busy, busy life. I’ve decided I am going to phase these activities and possibly cut out the night class. For example, when I am on maternity leave, I am going to focus on bonding with the baby and exercise. When I go back to work, I will focus on getting back into the swing. I will also have to cut back significantly on all the reading I do on my Kindle for fun. I think having realistic expectations is more than half the battle!