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Goals are important – but sometimes, so are setbacks.

Being a college student in a time where many are facing burnouts and struggling to reach the finish line can feel crushing, and there aren’t enough people telling you that it’s okay.

It hurts to set goals and not achieve them, whether it be one that was so far out of reach or one that was mere steps away. There is always so much talk about how important goal setting is throughout your life and how you can’t accomplish anything without setting goals, and there is truth to that. However, it isn’t the end of the world when you fall just short of them – as much as it feels like it is.

I am constantly setting goals for myself, wanting to go the extra mile and achieve great things, and it has been a long road to understanding that achieving great things takes time and even takes failure. There are plenty of times where I am still beating myself up for searching for perfection in my goals and being unable to find it and falling short, but it’s the fact that I now find comfort in those moments after the fact. It’s allowing yourself to be upset and recognize that you may not have succeeded this go around, but you got back up again and are learning from every move you made to prepare for it in the future, should the opportunity arise again.

Forcing yourself to stick to goals and not accepting that situations can change is unhealthy goal setting and prevents you from truly learning from your mistakes. It is about seeing an obstacle and taking the time to understand what is happening and then rerouting or hurdling over it. If you find yourself on your way to achieving a goal and stopping in your tracks, upset and unsure of where to go from there, here’s what I suggest you do:

  1. Ask yourself, is this roadblock or failure permanent? Allowing yourself to understand what happened and if it is something that can be changed can make a world of a difference in how you are feeling. Maybe it’s not something that can be changed right away, maybe it’s an opportunity that will come back around a year from now – but guess what? You will be prepared. I promise, this failure is not forever – it is merely a setback.
  2. Take a look at what went wrong – what happened that is preventing you from reaching this goal? What can you learn from it? Instead of beating ourselves up about what we could have done differently, take those thoughts and turn them into actions by applying what you could have done differently in future situations when you have the opportunity to achieve your goal again.
  3. Celebrate the little victories – don’t dwell on your failures. While it is great to take the time to understand a failure, there is a line between understanding and dwelling on it. When you spend too long thinking about why or how you were set back in reaching your goals, it can sometimes make you feel worse. Focus on celebrating the little victories and hurdles you overcame on this venture to reach your goals because those can often be overshadowed by the feeling of being set back.

As you set your goals for the remainder of 2021 or further, remember to not let the setbacks get to you because that’s all they are. Reaching your goals can be a challenging process, but it is within you to achieve greatness despite anything that may happen along the way.

U. of NH 2022
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