Any new project that we start has goals associated with it. Looking further at the bigger picture, we can view our entire life as a "goal"—to live it as fruitfully and enjoyably as possible. We do this by setting small daily, weekly, and yearly goals that give us some measure of our personal success. Those goals can be as simple as putting a few dollars into a savings account or as complex as bringing a new life into the world. Each goal also brings with it some amount of satisfaction when we accomplish what we set out to do.
But what happens when we set the goals too high? When that happens at work, we can readily change some of the end parameters of the product to compensate for performance shortfalls or features that just couldn't be implemented. That's one reason why speed grades exist and software upgrades seem so commonplace. Yes, it can be disheartening to go forward with an idea and then find it's just not possible due to cost, time, or other constraints that limit its implementation.
The goals that we do achieve let us pat ourselves on the back, but at the same time, potentially raise the question: could the goals have been set even higher? For those of us who thrive on challenges, of course the answer has to be a resounding YES. For everyone else, that just adds more stress to an already stressful situation. Missing a lofty goal, although disappointing, doesn't always feel as negative as missing a less-demanding goal—even though the time and sweat that we put into achieving a more lofty goal could be many times that of the simpler goal. Even the missed goals, though, provide us with an opportunity to reflect on whether the goals set were too high, the market conditions changed, or whether our approach was off-target.
In business, it's frequently easy to retrench and move on to the next project because in many cases, the next project has no relationship to the previous one. Whether the projects are related or unrelated, we still have an opportunity to learn from our results and grow professionally to better guide the next project or set proper goals.
In life we are often faced with similar challenges and opportunities: we set goals and we meet some, but more often than not, we miss a few as well. In our personal lives, however, we might not be as lucky as we are in business where we have a chance to start anew.
Missed personal goals can often reach beyond feelings of dissatisfaction or disappointment, especially when it comes to family and finances. Rarely can we start with a clean slate and not carry emotional baggage with us. Perhaps that baggage is actually our experience from which we will learn. Still, exploring our personal issues is much harder than dissecting a business plan. Furthermore, finding solutions can be many times more difficult. Therefore, taking the time to set manageable goals can be the key to both a satisfying personal life as well as a successful career.