What to Do When You Miss Your Goals

Photo by SolStock/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by SolStock/iStock / Getty Images

I remember learning how to ride a bike. I started with training wheels and became very confident in my ability to balance and control myself. I could operate the bike as intended without much fear or thought. When the time came to take the training wheels off.

The bike itself had not materially changed. It was still the same bike I had been riding all along. Only now that the training wheels were not there, the fear of what might happen made me nervous and anxious. I swallowed hard, threw my leg over the bar, and started to move forward just as I had done hundreds of times before.

It wasn’t three seconds before I fell over along with the bike. I got back up, brushed my knees, hands, and elbows off, and tried again. I can’t say I didn’t fall a few more times, but it didn’t take long for me to get back to the same level of comfort I had when I had training wheels.

Looking back, I realized something I hadn’t considered at the time. Part of success is falling. I know that sounds cliché, but it’s true. If you’re not comfortable falling, you’ll never get comfortable riding a bike. The same is true for leadership. If you’re not comfortable making mistakes, you’ll never lead to your full potential.


Setting and meeting goals is a lot like learning to ride your bike without training wheels. Expect to fall over, and find the energy to try again. Here is what you need to remind yourself when you miss your goals:

·      Everyone misses goals. If you don’t think successful people miss goals, then you need to spend more time with successful people.

·      You are more than your performance. Don’t get failure mixed up with your value as a human being.

·      A missed goal is an opportunity. It exposes a weakness which allows you to consider the goal from another perspective.

·      Reassess, adjust, and try again. The discipline of setting and meeting goals overshadows the times when you set a goal that later becomes unnecessary, irrelevant, or even inaccurate.

I meet so many leaders who are scared—in every sense of that word—to make a mistake. They live in constant fear of fumbling all over themselves. I also get to meet some of the most successful leaders in modern history. Want to know the difference? The former doesn’t want to make a mistake while the latter knows making mistakes and missing goals is part of life and leadership.


It's one thing to recover from a missed goal that only affects you. What about when you miss a goal, and it changes the lives of real people? If a sales manager doesn't meet a financial goal, sometimes it means staff changes. If an operations manager doesn't control expenses, it sometimes means significant budget cuts at the most inopportune time. And if a CEO consistently underperforms to expectations set by the Board, it sometimes means new leadership is on the way.

This is what separates—as some say—the men from the boys. You can’t lead with one foot on the clutch and one foot on the gas. You should put yourself out there, take a stand, and adjust and adapt as life comes at you.


·      I’d rather leap and fall than be left behind. No one accomplished something great without taking a risk.

·      I’d rather lean in than lean out. The abundant life comes with ups and downs. You can’t have one without the other.

·      I’d rather reach toward something than try to avoid it. You’ll accomplish more when you stretch yourself beyond what you believe is possible.

·      I’d rather explore uncharted territory than stay between the lines. Life is an adventure. Say yes!


It’s strange to me that some people believe failure is not tolerated in life. My leadership stance is if you're not failing then you're not trying hard enough. If a breakthrough is a goal, then you’re going to go places you’ve never been, do things you’ve never done, and try things you've never tried before. And you’re not going to win at everything nor are you going to be good at everything.

I would suggest a complete reframe. A missed goal is not a referendum on your personality, commitment, or determination. It is an opportunity to try again. And if you are willing to try enough times, you’ll eventually get it right.

You can’t enjoy the benefits of breakthrough without collecting a few scars along the way. Missed goals might sting, create interruptions in your pre-defined plans, or even embarrass you a little. So, what?!

Life is more than just a moment. In the end, you want to know you’ve left it all on the field. So, take the training wheels off, set some goals that will stretch you, and, if needed, get back up after you fall. Do this enough, and you’ll find your zone and lead into the fullness of your divine design.

CHALLENGE: What goals did you miss in the last week, month, or quarter? Why did you miss them? What will you do differently next time? What did you learn about yourself and your leadership in the process?