Is it a bad goal? Or just a bad deadline?

"Doctor, it hurts when I do this."

"Don't do that."


Sometimes we hurt ourselves with the deadlines we set.

Part of serious goal setting is choosing a time when you'll reach your goal. A deadline is an important motivation toward completing a goal. As it creeps closer, the adrenaline from the stress the deadline creates helps us take action. When you reach a goal, you get that nice feeling of accomplishment that we all strive for.

But what about the goal that you're not going to meet? The stress increases the closer you get to the deadline. Depending on the importance you place on the goal, that stress can be overwhelming.

You might give up and throw out the goal at this point. But first, look at the deadline. Is it a "hard" deadline because it's time sensitive? Or did you set an arbitrary deadline?

There are no bad goals. Only bad deadlines.

Notice the stress you're feeling as your deadline approaches. Are you stalled because you're so anxious over time? If so, ask yourself, "What really happens if I miss this deadline?" 

I'm a very goal-oriented person, so I place high importance on the deadlines I set. But if I get stalled, I check that deadline. Usually, I've set it myself, based on what I want at the time, and it may not directly affect anyone but myself. Another question that helps is, "What difference will this make a year or even six months from now?" 

If it's an arbitrary deadline, I change the deadline.

And then I begin again, now a little more clear-headed.

I hate missing any deadline, but I learn something every time I do. Either I adjust my work process, or the calculations I used to set the deadline in the first place.

Here's a fun side-effect. After the stress over time is gone, I can't tell you how many times I've met the original goal anyway. (That's how the subconscious kicks in to help out.) That doesn't happen every time, of course, but often enough to be noticeable.