Unrealistic Goals Kill Motivation

Unrealistic Goals Kill Motivation

Dustin Lien
March 8, 2023

Est. Read Time: 2 mins

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars.”

I don’t know about you, but that has not been my experience.

For me it’s been more like, “Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars…and feel like you failed while having anxiety the entire time. And even though you made great progress, you’ll come to the conclusion that you didn’t reach the moon, so it wasn’t worth it, and you should probably give up because you’re a hack who can’t hit your goals.”

Maybe you can relate?

One of the entrepreneurs I work with on growth marketing had a problem: Revenue was going up, but his motivation was going down.


For the previous 3 quarters, he had set unrealistically aggressive growth goals for his business, so when he wasn’t hitting them, he was perceiving setbacks that weren’t really there, and it was killing motivation.

A study published in Harvard Business Review about the power of small wins showed that, “Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work. And the more frequently people experience that sense of progress, the more likely they are to be creatively productive in the long run.

Here’s the reality:

If you set unrealistic goals, even meaningful progress feels insignificant. And when progress is perceived as insignificant, motivation and productivity drop.

Now, don’t misunderstand me and assume I’m saying we should set easy goals…that’s not what I’m saying.

I’m saying that unrealistic goals are idealistic and ineffective, so we should be more realistic if we want to be effective.

Right here, right now, let’s kill the ego-driven hustle mentality most entrepreneurs have been brainwashed with and stop setting arbitrary, grandiose goals we have no reasonable way of hitting by the impossible deadlines we made up.

Don’t shoot for the moon, because the closest star to the moon is actually 93 million lightyears farther, so when you miss it, you won’t land anywhere near a star, and you’ll kill your motivation to keep going.

Instead, set reasonable, meaningful goals that you have a real shot at hitting if you do your best work, and then get going, celebrating small wins along the way. And who knows, with all the positive signals fueling your productivity, you might just hit the moon anyway.

Hope this helps,


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