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What to do When You Don’t Reach Your Goals

I’m a terrible masochist. If something doesn’t turn out how I want it to, I implode. I sulk, I get angry, I stare into space thinking about how useless I am. When I do this, it’s not just me that suffers, it’s those I love, too. They have to deal with the bad moods even though they’ve done nothing wrong.

It hardly seems fair, does it?

Yet it still came as a surprise to me when someone suggested I stop punishing myself when I don’t reach my goal.


Because it doesn’t change anything.

What should you do when you don't reach your goal? It's not what you think...

When you punish yourself for not reaching your goals, you hurt yourself. You hurt those around you. But you don’t end up any better off.

When you punish yourself for not reaching your goals, you don't end up any better off. Click To Tweet

The Beauty of Bouncing Back

When you hit rock bottom, you have two options.

The first is to shut down.

The second is to find the trampoline at the bottom and bounce back.

I’ve done both.

I shut down for well over a year when I was 22, and I will never fully forgive myself for it. I wasted a long time feeling numb instead of learning and growing.

I was too scared to leave the house and take advantage of the opportunities around me. It wasn’t until I started my MA that I found the trampoline.

Let 2016 be the year you achieve your writing goals!

I won’t lie to you — bouncing back took a long time, and I’m not fully sure that I’m there yet (three years later).

But being on my way towards the fresh, clean air away from the dankness at the bottom of the well? It feels good.

Before I could bounce back, though, I had to learn not to punish myself when things went wrong.

Trouble is, there are always things that will go wrong in life. We have no control over that.

There are always things that will go wrong in life. We have no control over that. Click To Tweet

Take one of my friends. She was recently fired from her job. When she told me, I was really worried. I waited by the phone for her to ring me, and dropped everything when she called.

She didn’t sound how I expected.

She was surprisingly calm.

Because she’s been fired before. She knows the drill. She knows it’s not the end of the world. And she knows she can get back on the horse again.

When she got home, she played with her cat, did some knitting, then went to stay with her parents for a couple of days. All things she enjoys. All things that help her to relax.

And instead of dwelling on the past, she saw losing her job as an opportunity. She’s now looking to set up her own freelance writing/marketing business, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Why you should reward yourself when you don’t reach your goals

It’s important to take some time to yourself to process — and possibly mourn — what’s happened. However, keep in mind that the longer you take to do so, the harder it is to get back on the horse.

And the horse won’t wait for you forever.

On the other hand, if you do something you enjoy — for instance, I like to sew when I’m feeling down — then you’re doing something that makes you happy, instead of dwelling on your mistakes. Then, when you fail in the future, those failures aren’t as intimidating anymore. You learn not to associate failing with the overwhelming darkness that comes with self-hatred. You associate it with the lighter feeling of doing something that you love.

Not only that, but doing something you love after you’ve failed helps you to relax. It relieves the stress, and calms your mind. There’s really no reason you shouldn’t reward yourself for failing.

Moving on

When all is over and done, it’s time to move on.

Where you move on to is up to you, but the important thing is that you learn from your failure.

What could you have done differently?

How could you have changed the outcome?

What have you learnt?

If you take the time to think about all of this, you’ll surprise yourself.

It’s amazing how many lessons you can find in failure.

It's amazing how many lessons you can find in failure. Click To Tweet

And the more you see those failures as lessons, the easier they’ll be to cope with.

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Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams is an author of fiction and nonfiction, writing and productivity blogger, and occasional poet. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. When she's not writing she's reading, baking, or finding other ways to destroy the kitchen. She can be found under a pile of books with a vanilla latte.


  • 1st January, 2017 at 23:12

    Thanks. This is useful to remember. Its frustrating to start again, but knowing that you have learned something from the failure (even if its intangible) should make it easier.

    • 2nd January, 2017 at 13:43

      You’re welcome 🙂 It’s super frustrating when you have to start again, but sometimes it’s necessary to make the story the best that it can be. Reminding yourself of that helps to motivate yourself each time you have to change something. Have you read Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed? That’s all about learning from failures and changing your mindset to learn from them. It’s a brilliant read; I highly recommend it.



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