Failed to Reach Your Audacious Goal? Here’s How to Get Back on Track

failed goals

This post is from Careful Cents contributor Kayla, who owns the blog Shoeaholic NoMore. Over the next six months she’s documenting her journey to quitting her job and taking the leap into self-employment.

Like many of you who read this blog, my dream is to quit my full-time job so I can focus on running my own business instead.

In case you missed it, I shared with you my plans for quitting my job gracefully and without burning bridges in my first post here on Careful Cents.  I even publicly announced my goal to leave my full-time job on June 1, 2015.

Unfortunately I’ve had a few setbacks since then. I had to make a few repairs and upgrades to my home that I was not planning on shelling out for this year. Paying for these expensive projects has delayed my financial progress for paying off debt and increasing my savings. Because of this, it has also delayed the timeline for quitting my full-time job.

1. Accept that it’s OK to fail

As a very competitive and driven person, this fact was tough for me to accept when I first realized in late-March that I was not going to meet my goal of quitting by June 1.

I don’t like to set goals I can’t meet. And I hated it even more that I shared this big, hairy, audacious goal so publicly and that I would now have to share my failure with you too.

But I’ve learned that failures like these are not only okay, they are actually a great thing to experience now and then.

Why? Because at least I know I’m pushing myself and not setting goals that are so easy to obtain that they are meaningless. Instead I’m setting goals that make me work hard and expand my business beyond the edges of my comfort zone.

One piece of advice I picked up from an inspirational book I read years ago is that your comfort zone is not static. It is always growing or constricting depending on your actions. If you aren’t constantly setting goals just beyond your reach, your comfort zone will shrink.

When you inevitably fail, a goal you’ve set just beyond your reach (it will happen from time to time, trust me!) there are a few things you should do to help yourself out next time.

2. Figure out why you failed

Did you fail to reach your goal because you lost motivation? Did you fail because you weren’t really committed or passionate about it? Did you fail because you set your goal just beyond your reach?

If you failed for either of the first two reasons you probably shouldn’t have set the goal in the first place. Examine why you set the goal and why you failed to reach it. Perhaps you only set your goal because you were following a trend. (I’ve definitely been guilty of this one.)

For example, I decided to do a shopping ban and I failed miserably because my heart wasn’t in it. I only set the goal because I felt like I should to please other people.

But if the only reason you didn’t reach your goal is because you set it just beyond your reach then failing might just be better than if you had achieved your goal. Think about it. After we reach our goals we tend to slow our progress down significantly.

So what if you didn’t reach your goal for how much debt to pay off or when to quit your job. You still made significant progress in trying to reach that goal and are much further ahead than you would be if you hadn’t set that goal at all.

failure quote

3. Hit the reset button

Once you figure out why you failed and where your heart truly lies, it’s time to reset your goal.

Every time I fail at a goal I learn more about myself and my abilities, so I’m able to set better goals for the future. For instance, I now know more about how much monthly freelance income it’ll take for me to feel comfortable quitting my full-time job.

I also learned more about how long it will take for me to hit that goal number while I’m still working full-time. I even discovered that without a change to my client list and business model, I won’t be able to hit that number before quitting my full-time job — because I can’t work enough hours in the evenings and weekends to get there without seeking higher paying jobs or raising my rates.

With all of this in mind, I reset my goal for quitting my full-time job to be by the end of the year, December 31, 2015.

4. Choose a new timeline

How did I come up with this date for my goal? I decided to have a business date with myself, like Carrie suggests, to look back at my past progress and I took a hard look at my spending and budget. I wanted to see how long it would take me to pay off my recent expenditures and re-build to a point where I’d be comfortable leaving my steady paycheck behind.

I also spent some time talking to my business mentors (like Carrie and Cat), about my fears, my apprehension, and my goals. Without their encouragement there’s no way I’d be setting such audacious goals for myself and my business.

Even if your big, hairy, audacious goal isn’t quitting your job to work for yourself, you can still use these steps to figure out why you failed and where to go next with your business or personal goals.

Have you ever failed at a big, hairy, audacious goal? What did you do after you failed?

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  1. Ali says:

    I have definitely had goals I haven’t been able to meet (especially big ones like yours!), but I try not to look at it as failure. Failure would be if I made no progress or put no effort towards a goal. Sometimes, life just doesn’t work out the way you expect. You can’t be too hard on yourself when you tried you best but a goal just can’t be met.

  2. Will says:

    I think it’s better to fail every once-in-awhile than never fail at all. If you never fail at anything, you’re not trying hard enough.

    If I fail to meet weekly goals, I just work some on the weekends to make up for it. Works well.

    • Kayla says:

      This—> “I think it’s better to fail every once-in-awhile than never fail at all. If you never fail at anything, you’re not trying hard enough.” is exactly my point Will!

      The only thing I’ll caution is that some large or long-term goals can’t simply be made up for in one weekend if you fall short. 🙂

  3. Emma says:

    You haven’t failed to reach your goal, Kayla – you just haven’t achieved it YET.

    This is really really important, and one reason why I try not to set too specific timescales on what I want to achieve. My to-do list on a day-to-day basis is full of things I “failed to achieve” in the short term. However if I look back over the course of months, I’ve probably actually achieved 95% of them because they still had to be done and got done.

    If I don’t achieve something on a particular day it’s probably either because life and unforeseeables got in the way (which by defnition none of us can predict), or because it’s simply an arbitrary, artificial deadline; if I don’t achieve it at all, it’s most likely because something in my gut is stopping me from doing it so it’s something that shouldn’t be done or it’s actually simply not as important as I originally thought.

    Either way, why beat yourself up?

  4. Kristi says:

    You will reach your goal, you just pushed back the deadline! The only way you would truly fail is if you gave up on being a writer and an entrepreneur and stayed at your full-time job indefinitely.

  5. Jen Ferris says:


    I’m working toward a similar goal. I want to pay off my student loans, my business loans and build up my savings to $80K in the bank. Additionally, I would like to have several paying clients in my portfolio. When I have all of this, I will feel confident and secure enough to leave my day j o b.

    I have applied to Carrie’s Client Connection in hopes that goal will be a reality sooner than not.

    Sometimes, life does get in the way of our best laid plans, doesn’t it? But, for me, it’s important to remember that I haven’t completely given up on my goals and dreams.

    I just finished reading:
    The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life – Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process, by Thomas M. Sterner. I loved this book. It is a quick short read. And so, I read it three times and I will read it again several more times.
    In the book, Sterner talks about recognizing the process and accepting where in the process I currently am. It is a good reminder to acknowledge my actions. Observe the event and correct course, if necessary. I am reminded to be intentional and deliberate with my action in the part of the process of where I’m at. It is helping me to be less anxious and judgmental of myself. It is a good reminder to stay in the moment of my feelings. … Understand why I am feeling the way that I do and not judge how I am feeling, but just that I am feeling whatever emotion it is.

    It’s a really good book. It’s taught me a lot for my own personal development and tips I can use to support future clients in my business.

    So, Dear Kayla. Accept where you are in the whole process. With intentional and deliberate action, you will attain your goal, in just exactly the right time.

    I look forward to reading more about all the different journeys we are on.

  6. Kennedy says:

    This amazing piece of writing reminds me of that time i was failing, not attaining what i wanted to and almost giving up in all i was doing as a writer. It’s a great motivation to me as i have not reached the heights i want to yet as well as to many other people who are almost giving up on their projects.

  7. Diane says:

    Your situation sounds less like failure and more like you learned something new. House maintenance can be a big nasty budget destroying monster if you don’t plan for it. You know that now and I can’t imagine you’ll ever forget to set aside a ‘maintenance fund’ again.

    Take a deep breath and keep going!

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