What Is The Most Likely Consequence of Setting Unrealistic Goals?

Someone is standing on top of a mountain with a flag in their hand and their hands raised in victory

Goal setting is something that I frequently discuss on this blog because I think setting goals is such a necessary step to living a life that is meaningful, fulfilling, and happy. 

But the other day I had someone ask me, “what is the most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals?”

I thought that was a fantastic question, and it is one that I wanted to dive deeper on this blog, as I feel like that question doesn’t have a simple answer that can be summed up in a sentence.  

So let’s dive right in.

What do unrealistic goals even mean? 

According to the dictionary, unrealistic means something is inappropriate to reality or fact.  

And a goal is something we are trying to achieve or require.  

So, an unrealistic goal means we are trying to achieve something that we are unlikely to succeed at based on our situation or fact.  

A realistic goal, on the other hand, would be one that inspires us to think to ourselves, “Yes, I could totally do that.”  

What makes a goal unrealistic? 

There isn’t really a consensus for what specifically categorizes an unrealistic vs a realistic goal because it is so subjective.  

What might seem unrealistic to me, might not be for you, and so on and so forth.  

Its very existence in reality is based on whatever your own personal knowledge, experience, and opinions are telling you. 

What are the negative consequences of setting unrealistic goals? 

1) Decreased confidence 

We will be less likely to attempt something in the future if we think we can’t accomplish it.  

This decrease in confidence can spiral and cause many other issues in our lives. 

2) Negative self-talk 

When our confidence decreases, it can be common for the voice in our head to trend to more negative self-talk. Things like “Why even try, you aren’t going to accomplish it anyways” or “Can’t you do anything right?”

Sound familiar?

3) Decreased motivation 

That decreased confidence and those negative voices will steal away any and all motivation we might have had to achieve our goals, leading to us not even trying to achieve anything at all. 

4) Increased negativity 

As that negative self-talk starts to increase, it often begins to creep into all aspects of our lives like poison. 

What are the benefits of setting unrealistic goals

Although there are some negative consequences of setting unrealistic goals, there are also positive benefits as well. 

Setting unrealistic goals increases our drive and pushes us out of our comfort zone. By reaching for things that many might think are out of reach, we can truly surprise ourselves and others with what we can accomplish. Dreaming bigger can make so many magical things happen in our lives.

After all, haven’t you ever heard the quote that if you shoot for the moon, at least you will land amongst the stars? 

Achieving at least a part of a large or “unachievable” goal, can sometimes have more benefits than achieving the entirety of a small one. 

shoot for the moon quote What Is The Most Likely Consequence of Setting Unrealistic Goals?

What are some examples of unrealistic goals?

  1. Sell 5 billion copies of a book within 7 days of releasing it to the public
  2. Becoming president
  3. Marry a celebrity
  4. Get paid to travel the world
  5. Have a blog that makes $500 million a year in income.

These are all examples that some people might think are unrealistic or impossible goals, however, do you know what they all have in common?

People do, or have, achieved those things.

Should we set unreasonable goals? 

Yes. I believe that true success and achievement when it comes to setting goals stems from balance. We should set “unreasonable” goals so that we dream big and make amazing things, that other people would consider unrealistic, happen. 

However, that balance is necessary. If we set up small “realistic” goals, we will experience wins which will help to increase our confidence and shield us from much of the disappointment that could come from chasing “unreasonable goals”. 

Instead of considering if the goal is realistic or unrealistic, I would question if the goal is actionable. 

What does that mean? 

It means that instead of daydreaming and thinking in “what ifs” we take specific steps and actions towards achieving it. 

We have been conditioned to play it safe our entire lives. Oftentimes the fear of failure keeps us from setting big goals for ourselves. 

However, although we may experience failure, decreased motivation, and our confidence might take a hit when we “set unrealistic goals” and then don’t achieve them, we can also fail by setting “realistic goals” as well. 

Failure is a part of life, and if we let it hold us back we develop a limited mindset.  

Our limited mindset is what is holding us back, not an “unrealistic goal”.  

If we can change our perspective and the way we think about big goals, we can start going after what we really want in life, instead of only what we think we can have.  

Remember, unrealistic goals are just goals that most people consider to be unreachable—until someone reaches them

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