Failing To Reach a Goal


I failed to reach some of my goals last year—and a couple of them were high on my list. Anyone else have the same experience? No one likes to fall short of achieving her goals, but since my theme word for 2013 was finish, this particular falling short stings a little more than usual.

The biggest goal I failed to reach last year was finishing my book. I almost made it, but I didn’t quite complete the task. I finished writing it, revising it, and sending it through to my critique group, but I didn’t get the final edit and polish done by year’s end.

As mid-year arrived, I was on track and felt confident that I would finish the project so I put it on hold during the summer. I didn’t even want to attempt a final read-through while my husband was on his summer break and life was more hectic than usual. I would finish it in the fall when I could concentrate without so many distractions.

What I didn’t fully anticipate was the amount of time and work it took to be ready to attend a writers conference in late September. Nor did I realize that the writing advice I would get there would show me that my manuscript needed more work than what I had been planning on. The final read through I thought I’d do turned into another edit and polish.

And then life happened as well. Within days after submitting my book proposal and polished sample chapters in mid-October to agents and an editor who had expressed interest at the conference, my mom was in a car accident. Shocked and heartbroken, we watched her die a few days later.

In November, in the midst of grief, I got back to work on the manuscript, but I also had the good fortune of being offered representation by a literary agency while another agent also showed interest. I had to take time to communicate with the interested agents, pray, research, and contact other authors the agency represented to find out what their experiences thus far had been like.

All of this helped me achieve another goal of signing with an agent, but my work on the manuscript was interrupted again. And then of course, the last two weeks of December was devoted to family and Christmas break. Year’s end came, and alas, I had failed to achieve my goal of finishing my book.

I know I’m not alone in failing to reach a goal—so what do we do when it happens? If you’re like me, you’ll kick yourself for quite awhile. After all, it’s natural to feel aggravated at yourself and disappointed with missing your mark. But after we work through our initial discouragement, what do we do then?

The way I see it, we have three choices. 1) We can walk away in defeat and abandon the goal altogether  2) we can pick ourselves up and keep going for it or  3) we can reevaluate and see if we need to alter the goal in some way or perhaps break it up into more manageable pieces.

Which will you choose when you fail to reach a goal? I choose to press on. The goal is worth achieving, and I’m almost there. Distractions and roadblocks will most certainly keep occurring for all of us, but if we persevere and call on God for help or for guidance in reevaluating, success will surely come—even if it’s not what we first envisioned. Let’s not walk away in defeat. Let’s press on.

“But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded.” 2 Chronicles 15:7

*How do you stay determined to reach your goals?

*Flickr photo by Omer Unlu, Creative Commons License

*The next issue of Life Notes, my quarterly inspirational newsletter, will come out in early February. Sign-up is free and to the right!


  1. Here’s my problem – I don’t have many goals right now. I suppose I have mini-ones, daily ones, but somewhere along the way, I quit thinking “long term”. Perhaps I need to do some work in this area. Cheryl, I’m so happy your writing dreams are coming to pass. I know you’ll finish that book and get it into the right hands for release. This is fun for me, watching it unfold for you. Blessings and peace, sister.

    • Elaine, thanks so much for the encouragement and for enjoying the journey with me. It definitely IS a journey! Maybe you’ve just been in a season where daily goals are what you’re supposed to concentrate on and the season for long-term thinking and goals will unfold again before long. Blessings and peace to you, too, my friend. I appreciate you!

  2. Jennifer Dougan says


    Good job on working hard on your writing goals anyway, through it. Polishing alone always takes more time than we imagine, I think, and you’ve had the incredible loss of your mom too. Congratulations about the literary agents and the continued work on your book. Hang in there, keep going! You can do it, for His glory. :)

    Jennifer Dougan

    • Appreciate your encouragement so much, Jennifer. You’re right about the polishing — it always takes longer than we think it will. Many thanks for spurring me on. Blessings to you!

  3. Cheryl, I think it is very commendable that you made it as far as you did in 2013 – congratulations on HUGE progress toward a HUGE goal! The deadline you set was just a motivator, not a slave driver. You did better than good, you did GREAT, particularly in light of losing your mom. (When I lost my dad I was marginally functional for a year.)

    • Jana, thanks so much for your encouragement and for helping me focus on the progress I did make towards my goal. I had been working on my book gradually for a few years and so made it my goal to finish it in 2013. It is indeed important to remember that a deadline is just a motivator — we never know what life has in store for us. Thanks, too, for sharing your experience of what it was like for you when you lost your dad. It helps to hear about others’ experiences with grief. Thank you!

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