What to do when you fail to achieve your goals

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Many of us are pretty good at setting goals but lack the ability to follow through on those goals after a certain point. We can start strong with good self-discipline, but at some point, it all comes to a screeching halt. So what do you do when you fail to achieve your goals? 



I will admit, I fail at way more goals than I set. I have shared on this blog for the past 2 years that one of my yearly goals has been to read the entire Bible in 365 days. Do you know how many times I have completed that goal?

Zero times.

The purpose of me setting a goal to read the entire Bible in a year was so I could build my faith. I wanted to have accountability for reading my Bible daily.

But my goal actually ended up having the opposite effect. For 2 years in a row, I lost steam around the start of summer. Maybe it was a vacation where I forgot to pack my Bible or a busy couple of weeks where I got distracted. Whatever the cause, I got way off track on my reading plan to the point where I felt like I couldn’t catch up.

And anytime I looked at my Bible on my nightstand, I felt failure. I didn’t want to start another reading plan, or just pick up the Good Book and read any random passage just to see what God had to say. If I wasn’t working the reading plan that I had set a goal to do, I didn’t find joy in it.

So I actually went MONTHS without opening my Bible outside of church, which is pretty much a recipe for disaster if you want to grow your faith.


I completely failed my goal.


Recently, I read a book called “Finish” by Jon Acuff. And in that book, Jon talks about the exact time when people abandon or fail their goals.

In his example, if you set a goal to do the Whole 30 diet, you start off your first few days full of determination and excitement of what this diet will bring you. You prep your meals, you research meal ideas for restaurants. You are totally prepared to take on this goal.

But then after the initial push, something happens. You may get too busy to go to the grocery store to buy all of those approved foods. Or you end up on a weekend trip with the most amazing brownie sundae offered at dinner.

Whatever it is, you end up with your first non-perfect day. And for most of us, that is where we fall off the wagon and then we never get back on.


We abandon our goals after one day of imperfection. 


After reading that example, I was completely reminded of the Bible on my bedside table that hadn’t been opened after my non-perfect day. I gave up when I couldn’t attain perfection.

But newsflash friends – I am not perfect, and neither are you! There is actually no way that we are going to achieve perfection when it comes in our goals.

So we are going to have to get really good at failing to achieve our goals – and then changing course.

What to do when you fail to achieve your goal

What I should have done in with my Bible in a Year goal, is adapt after I first got off track. I should have decided that it was ok to extend my timeline and try to read the Bible in 14 months. Or I could have gone back to the root of the goal (to grow my faith) and decided that getting more out of my time in the word was more important, and picked a different reading plan or a devotional.

I should have picked anything that would have kept me going and continuing to make progress. Especially since I had already read through 50% of the Bible at that point!

Celebrate Your Progress

Which brings me to the next thing that you should do when you fail at your goals. – Look at how much progress you have made.

Maybe you failed your goal of working out every day for a month in order to lose 10 lbs. Instead of stopping when you have your first day of 24-hour Netflix Binge Watching – get on that scale and remind yourself how awesome it is that you have already lost 5 lbs! That is a huge accomplishment and YOU DID IT!

You will get to your final goal if you continue to celebrate the progress you are making along the way. Bonus points if you put rewards in place as you hit little milestones along the course of your goal.

Make a plan to fail

The last thing that I encourage you to do is to make a plan to fail on all of your goals.

I know that sounds crazy. Like, what is the point of planning to fail? Shouldn’t we only be envisioning our success?!

But the reality is that things will happen that cause bumps in the road and those bumps can end up completely derailing you if you don’t have a plan to get your self back on track.

This year, I revised my Bible reading goal, and instead of trying to read the Bible in a Year, I am using the Write the Word journals as a daily guide to my time in the word. And my failure plan is that if I lose interest in those journals, or I stop getting anything out of them, I bought a Beth Moore Bible study guide to give me a really deep dive into one of the books of the Bible (this one is for 1 Timothy).

I decided it was more important to stay focused on the goal of growing and strengthening my faith than just to try to read the Bible in 365 days just so I can say that I did it. I may get there one day, but I need to put some better foundations in place first.


If you have failed at one of your goals, please know that is totally ok! We are going to fail, but as long as we get back to it and continue to make progress, we are still going in the right direction!


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