Go Big or Go Home: When is it Time to Give up the Goal?

You have to sometimes let go of something to make room for committing to something else.

Go Big or Go Home: When is it Time to Give up the Goal?

Sometimes you have to let go of something, to make room for committing to something else.

Sometimes you have to let go of something, to make room for committing to something else.

We have all had experiences of wanting something to be different, but staying stuck in the same place. Wishing things would be different doesn't make change happen. Wanting things to be different doesn't make change happen.


There are many factors involved when it comes to whether or not you accomplish a desired goal. Your level of confidence, your motivation, your resources, your support system - all of these elements play a part, but there is another essential and often overlooked factor that comes into play.


When there is a discrepancy between what you think you want, and what you actually want (and what you’re actually willing to commit to), the discrepancy creates cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is basically that feeling of tension and angst that occurs when you simultaneously want two different things that are in conflict with one another. There will be times in your life where choosing to commit towards one goal could be in direct conflict with your ability to work towards another goal. The truth is that you cannot give 100% of your energy to both and when you have conflicting goals, oftentimes instead of fully realizing either one, you end up half-assing both.


If you find yourself not fully committing to a goal, here are some important questions to ask yourself:

  • What do I want to accomplish with this goal?
  • Why do I want to accomplish this?
  • Does this goal conflict with another goal or desire I have?
  • Does this goal bring me closer to or further away from my life values and the person I want to be?


Can you let go of one goal to make room for the other? Or can you let go of how you are defining success with each goal? Can you clarify what is truly important to you in your life and choose goals that fit in line with that? We sometimes get hooked by setting goals that we think we should or by feeling like we have to always continue to raise the bar. It's important to step back and make sure that your goals are still in line with what you really want for your life.


I have a list of equanimity mantras hanging up above my desk. The first three on the list are:


  • I am responsible for my actions and for the choices I make.
  • My suffering and happiness is created through my relationship to the experience not by experience itself.
  • My happiness and unhappiness depends on the actions not my wishes.


If you’re feeling some cognitive dissonance or distress related to your goals – these are powerful mantras to remind you that wishing and wanting something to feel different will not make them feel different.


You need to clarify your goals - what do you want to accomplish and are you ready to commit what you need to do in order to accomplish it? If you want something to change, you have to take action. If you ask yourself this question and the answer is NO, it might be time to reevaluate what is important to you right now and let go of the thing that was important to you in the past or might be important to you in the future. Be OK with the goal you have chosen. Don’t worry about anyone else’s goal or where you stack up. It’s YOUR goal and what’s important is how that goal makes you feel about yourself – not how your goal stacks up against anyone else’s goal. So what are you ready to go after and what are you ready to let go of?


Comments ( 4 )

  • Shaundi

    This was right on time Carrie! I needed to hear this. 🙏😇🤗

  • Kevin Shields

    I’ve often thought that when young athletes are asked to complete a goal setting activity they generate goals that reflect what they perceive as the dominant cultural goal or purpose in sport participation of qualifying for a specific team. This position maybe encouraged or perceived to be encouraged by parents and friends. How can a goal setting activity with young athletes be more effective and supportive of athletic and personal development?
    I have come across a tool called fear setting that is suggested as a substitute for goal setting. This tool has you identify the fears you have of completing/participating in certain activities an using problem solving to address, put the fear in perspective and overcome these fears. Do you feel this approach could be a replacement for goal setting or is that a piece of goal setting?

  • Great question Kevin! I think you’re right – that sometimes young athletes set goals that are reflective of the goal they think they “should” be setting or the goals that they hear from others within the sport or family culture. It’s important to help them understand how to set performance goals and process goals versus only setting outcome goals, which is what they are often taught. I haven’t seen the “fear goal setting” tool specifically, but basically it sounds like it could be useful as a part of goal setting. I’ve often done a similar activity with my clients that sometimes includes simulated training to help them work on how they want to respond in that situation. For example, I had a triathlete that was nervous about changing her tire if she got a flat in the middle of a race so we set some goals around this and I had her go out on a training ride and stop in the middle of her workout to pull over and practice changing her tire on the side of the road. I wouldn’t say that this would replace goal setting, but it can definitely be an important part of it!

  • Awesome Shaundi!! I’m so glad to hear that! I love it when that happens :)

Post a Reply