There are innumerable motivational quotes and posters that peddle the idea that giving up on a goal is unacceptable. These emphases on determination and perseverance are admirable, but sometimes a goal truly does begin to demand too much. You might start to question if it is worth continuing to sacrifice to reach that goal. That is normal, and sometimes it is a temporary setback you need to push through in order to reach success. Other times, it is a warning sign that you are straining too hard to reach your goal. So, how do you tell the difference between a challenge and a signal you need to quit? When should you give up on a goal?
It hurts your health.
There is very little in this world that is worth sacrificing your health to achieve. If your goal has begun to interfere with your physical health or severely harm your mental health, you need to take a step back and reevaluate. Sometimes, minor issues are unavoidable or even part of the territory. If you are determined to quit smoking, for example, you might feel irritable, anxious or down in the dumps. These are expected withdrawal symptoms and something that you simply have to push through in order to save your physical health in the long term. The symptoms should also be temporary. Similarly, you might find that in pursuit of your goal to complete a marathon, you sprain a muscle. That does not mean you have to give up running entirely, but you need to stop and let yourself heal.
Sometimes goals end up hurting your health in serious or long lasting ways. You might be determined to climb the corporate ladder only to find that you are constantly battling respiratory infections and suffer from stress-induced insomnia. These are not temporary or minor issues. They are a sign that your goal has become unhealthy. Similarly, if you are aiming to complete a race and find that you dread practicing for the race or are developing self-loathing because you feel you are too weak, you need to set the goal aside. These are warning signs for your mental health and are not likely to go away any time soon.
It becomes all consuming.
If you want to achieve a goal, you need to be willing to make sacrifices. You have to be capable of setting certain things aside in order to succeed. Deciding not to go out with friends for drinks one Friday night so you can be rested for a morning run or passing on a shopping spree with your sister so you can continue saving money for something else is understandable and even admirable. You are keeping your eye on your goal. The problem occurs when you start saying no to absolutely everything in order to work toward your goal. You skip your children’s baseball games in order to fit in a few extra hours at work so you can get that promotion. You have not gone out with your friends in weeks because you wanted to spend that extra hour in the gym. You are absent from your family even when you are home with them because your mind is focused solely on your goal. If something does not immediately feed your goal, you ignore or dismiss it, even when that means abandoning friends or family members. If that happens, you no longer have a goal. You have an addiction, and you need help breaking it.
It sets a bad example.
Striving to reach a difficult goal and refusing to let challenge defeat you is often an inspiring thing to see. Such determination sets a good example for friends, family members and children. At least, it usually does. Sometimes, however, your determination to reach a goal can end up sending a very different message to those around you. You might think that you are showing your children the importance of refusing to give up on a goal and how to eat healthy, but all they are hearing is that gaining five pounds is disastrous. You might be trying to show that hard work is the best way to get ahead, but all they are hearing is that money is more important than family. Neither of these are good examples to set for others. If you have inadvertently created that perception, you need to step back and reevaluate what you are teaching others. Will you remain healthy if you keep carrying those five pounds? Can you pay your bills without working all that extra overtime? If the answer is yes, then it is better to set your goal aside and ensure that the right lessons are taught than to continue on toward your goal and leave your children with misconceptions that could take years to undo.
It is actually impossible.
Most things can be achieved if a person is willing to be patient, make sacrifices and work hard to reach their goal. Sometimes, however, there are goals that simply cannot be reached no matter how hard a person tries. There may not be enough hours in the day to complete that screenplay in time to enter it in a contest. Your body might simply not be able to keep up with the strain of trying to become a professional athlete. You might not have the talent to be a singer on Broadway. Other times, there is a way to reach the goal, but the sacrifices it demands render it impossible. You might be able to become the company’s CEO, but you would have to essentially give up being involved in your daughter’s life. You could live in a Manhattan high rise like you always dreamed of doing, but you would need to work such incredibly long hours that your health would suffer.
Everyone likes to talk about how any goal is possible, and most of the time, that is true. There are, however, exceptions to that rule. If there were not, every first grade boy would grow up to be a sports star, millions of girls would be standing proudly on the moon and there would be no shortage of singers, actors, artists or royalty. Unfortunately, not all dreams are achievable.
That does not mean you have to abandon them entirely. You might not be able to become a Broadway superstar, but that does not mean you cannot be the lead singer in a local band or everyone’s favorite cantor. You do, however, need to be able to accept that your original goal simply is not achievable.
If you give up on a goal at the first sign of difficulty, you will never achieve anything. By the same token, if you continue striving to reach a goal that has become unhealthy, you will lose what matters most in pursuit of success. As such, when you begin to wonder if your goal is worth the sacrifices you are making to achieve it, you need to truly examine that question and answer it truthfully. You will regret giving up too soon if you are simply facing down a temporary setback or challenge, but at the same time, little is worse than sacrificing to achieve a goal only to find that you abandoned everything that mattered to reach it. Telling the two apart is not always easy, but for your own sake, you need to learn to identify which is which, and no one can do that but you.