Having goals is a healthy way of seeking to improve yourself. By setting goals for ourselves to achieve in the near or the far future helps to keep us grounded and focused. But there is a time when instead of our goals providing us with ammunition to thrive, they hinder our progress in more ways than one.
You could have a goal that you set a few years ago, only to get frustrated because it never happened in the desired timeframe. You kept adding new goals to it, writing a list. Now that list is so huge that you feel like you can’t see the wood from the trees.
Is there such a thing as having too many goals? The simple and short answer is yes, you can have too many goals. If you feel overwhelmed, thinking that there is not enough time in this world that would be suitable for you to achieve all of your goals, or if they’re simply isn’t any room left on your list for a new goal (and you are still young with many more goals in your mind), then you are on the path towards having goals you will never achieve.
So, if your goals don’t fill you with excitement anymore, but they make you feel like they are chores you need to complete to survive, then you have too many goals. Feeling anxious about your goals is natural, but being overwhelmed by them isn’t. Take a step back and see if you can prioritize them or get rid of a few. Being flexible with your list of goals and patience are both keys in achieving them.
One of the purposes of a goal is to act as a compass, setting a pointer, so we know which direction we should be heading in. When you have a definite goal and you know the direction, you know exactly which steps to take for you to get there.
But what happens when you have way too many goals, and each and every one of them is pulling you in a different direction? How do you choose?
How Many Goals Is Too Many?
When you ask different people how many goals you should have and how many are too many, they will probably have different answers depending on their own experience. But that’s the key: it’s their experience, not yours.
Unless you fill them in on every aspect of your life, your past and your future vision of you (which is doubtful), you need to treat their advice as only that. You either take it or you don’t, but you definitely can’t compare your goals to someone else’s. That never ends well. Just the way they don’t know all the details about your goals, you don’t know all the details about their methods. What works for them might not work for you and vice versa.
Some will tell you to focus on only one goal, while others will claim that three is the magic number. But then again, why three? Can’t it be four, five, six? If you go down these routes, you might end up having a huge to-do list that never ends (because you can only ever do one thing), or you simply get back to where you started from, always adding ‘only one more’ to the list of the things you want to achieve right now.
Then some will advise you not to have any goals at all, just go with the flow. Yes, they are normally the ones who end up wasting their lives, realizing it too late. Not having any goals is as harmful as having too many. So, what is the magic number? Is it one goal per life aspect, like the majority is saying? Or is it something else entirely?
How To Know You Have Too Many Goals?
The thing is that only you know the answer, even if you don’t realize it yet. Have a look at the list of symptoms we collected to see whether you have too many goals at the moment. Once you have that information, it will be easier for you to decide how many is too many.
Why? Because then, if your answer to the following points is yes, you know you have too many right now. Decrease the number of goals you have by one, then in a few weeks, go over the list of feelings once again. Did anything change? No? Then rinse and repeat until you get there.
–You Have Every Detail Figured Out
When you have a goal in mind, you will probably have a detailed plan as to how to achieve that goal. You might even have a daily schedule set out for yourself, a to-do list for the next five years (or more, depending on how long the goal is likely to take).
And that’s all good until it’s not. If the planning ends there and you know exactly what steps to take, and you do your bit every day to achieve that goal, then that’s perfect. Well done, you are halfway there.
But if you find yourself picturing every single detail of how that goal is going to work and how every part of it will happen, then you have an issue.
We often find ourselves daydreaming about our dreams and goals, and that’s natural. What’s less natural is spending most of our time planning without any action to correspond with that.
That could still be okay with a goal you have set for five years. You might justify it by saying that it takes so long, so you need an incentive – which, in this case, is your imagination running wild.
Okay, that’s fine. But what happens when you do this with every single goal you have, even the short term ones? You keep trying to control every single aspect of them, driving yourself crazy, and anyone else who is involved in achieving your goal in a way or another.
Soon this will become an obsession, one that will lead to you not being able to deal with change. If a tiny detail doesn’t fit into the plan you had in your mind, the whole goal might go out the window.
Why? Because you are putting way too much emphasis on the way you think it should work, unable to let the universe decide how it is done. Remember that you will probably never be in a position where you can control anything else about your goal apart from your own attitude.
And, in this case, your attitude is letting you down. Because you have a set idea of how everything should work, if it doesn’t, the goal won’t, either, leaving you disappointed and wasting your time and energy on something that could have worked, if you changed your attitude in the first place.
– You Have A List You Can’t Complete Till You Are 90
Let’s be realistic here. When we start talking about hundreds of goals, whether realistic or not, you are putting way too much pressure on yourself. Yes, everyone should aim high, wanting to fly, but without breaking their wings before take-off.
When you have too many goals, the list just seems endless. You are 32, but you already have 100 items on that list, ones that you added when you were 19. By the age of 22 you crossed off five, but when you looked at the list a month later, miraculously, two new goals popped up for every conquered one.
It’s a never-ending circle that leads to procrastination and skipping important tasks because you will soon find yourself spending more and more time focusing on your goals. Now, under normal circumstances, you could say that it’s an ambitious decision, one that can’t harm you, right? The more goals, the better.
Once you have too many goals, the steps you take to achieve them will actually take you further away from them. Why? Because you will get exhausted in the meantime, burning the candle at both ends for the wrong reasons. Have you heard the saying that you should only reach as far as your blanket reaches? You are young, you should have plenty of space on that list for new goals to pop up.
– When You Add A New Goal, You Panic, Feeling Overwhelmed
Another common sign of having way too many goals is the fact that whenever you think about adding a new goal, you panic. You know too well that your time is limited. You have a goal you set for two months for now, but you are still working on the one you should have achieved a week ago. Oh, and then let’s not even start on the five-year plan you couldn’t even look at yet.
Feeling anxious about achieving your goals is natural. But having slight panic attacks when we need to add another item to our list, or when someone asks as to do something that deters us for a short time isn’t healthy.
Goals should be there to guide us towards a better future, not to rob us of our present and our enjoyment. Spending time doing things you love right now is equally important as doing things to secure your future. Try to remember that.
– You Wish There Was An 8th Day In The Week
When you set way too many goals for yourself, especially with a tight timeframe, you will find that there is not enough time in the world to achieve them. Of course, this will make you feel impatient and you will want to achieve them right now.
You are all over the place, doing one thing one minute, only to switch to another one the next. Your schedule will become chaotic and it won’t make sense. You might take tiny steps towards all of your goals in one day, but you will feel so exhausted that you won’t appreciate the progress you made.
After some time you will give up because you won’t see a quick enough return of the effort you put into your goals. Even if you have goals that you set for a few weeks for now, you will end up having to work overtime, because there are already so many long-term goals on your plate.
Or, you could go the other way, and, just like with the other issues, you will end up missing out on other important things in favor of your many goals. That can only work to a certain extent. But what if you suddenly achieve every goal on your list, only to realize that time has passed you by, but you were too wrapped up in your goals to notice?
Another common symptom of having too many goals is the fact that you simply can’t switch off. The five things run full circle here, taking you back to the beginning: you feel like your time is limited, so you need to do everything right now, to the dot, otherwise there is no point at all.
– You Can’t Rest Until It’s Done
You skip meals and social events, thinking that it’s okay, you can always participate in the next one. Your health both physically and mentally will soon be in danger, because you will be driving yourself crazy and to the brink of collapse.
Of course, this is a radical example, but hopefully, you get the point. Moderation and a balance between your goals and the present is key to achieving both a happy life in the future and in the present. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other’s benefit. If there is, then you probably have too many goals.
Unfortunately, if you keep going this way, you will end up not only failing at one goal but at all of them. And that’s more frustrating than failing at just one goal. Because then you can start over. But if you feel like you failed at a hundred goals already, how do you get back up and start over again without making the same mistakes?
Not to mention that you can lose much more in the process, like your family, friends, relationship and sanity. Focusing on your goals too little or too much is a vicious circle that’s not easy to get out of.
The good news is that there is still a way to save your existing goals. You might feel like you failed for a while. You might even feel like you are going backwards and forwards, but that’s okay. In the end, because you have changed the way you look at it, you will realize that you made more progress than you could have if you carried on the way you did.
How to Have the Right Amount of Goals
When you find yourself with way too many goals that you will never be able to achieve, you might want to downsize. But what’s the right amount of goals for you? And how do you figure out which goals to keep and which goals to skip without feeling guilty?
Especially in today’s society, when we are supposed to be in top form all the time, thriving to achieve more, we can get lost in the labyrinth of goals. Most people want to lose weight, sign up for the gym, attain a new hobby, go to college, etc. And to the people who create these goals for themselves, each and every one of them is equally important.
So, when someone tells you that you have too many goals and for you to achieve something (anything), you need to get rid of most of them, you might panic, wanting to achieve everything. But the good news is that the goals you have might be integrated into each other, especially if they cover the same aspect of your life.
Have a look at the following tips on how to make sure you know which goals to focus on and which ones to place on a backburner. But remember, they are your goals, so only you know which ones you really want to achieve and how many you can take on. Of course, if you are showing any of the signs from the previous chapter, it’s more than likely that you need to have a look at the following list anyway.
– Find Overlaps
Trying to find overlaps between your goals is an excellent way to downsize without losing significant traction. For example, if your number one goal is to lose weight, but further down the line you have written down that you should join the gym, followed by another goal to go there twice a week, and another one to eat healthily, then the good news is that all these can be integrated into one.
Here comes the idea that you should have one goal per life aspect, but without having to sacrifice any of the goals. One will benefit the other, and if you focus on the bigger and main goal (losing weight), then all the others will become the steps you take to achieve that goal. Five in one, not bad now, is it?
The idea is to achieve your goals without overwhelming yourself with them. Some of these changes you only need to make once and then stick with them. It normally takes people 2-4 weeks to take on a new habit or to get rid of an old one. So, this way, you can have a reasonable timeframe for your goals.
Also, if instead of having 30 goals on your never-ending to-do list, you have five, but all of them have 6 major elements each, your perspective will change. You will feel less overwhelmed, because, instead of focusing on 30 different goals and dreams at the same time, your main goals will be 5 or 6, which is manageable.
The human mind is unlimited, but we are limiting our own perception. It is said that if someone has more than three choices presented to them, they will be so overwhelmed, that they will be unable to make a decision. We want it simple and laid out in front of us.
Having said that, this doesn’t mean that three is the magic number. As we mentioned earlier, you need to figure that bit out for yourself. This guide should help, but it isn’t going to work for everyone.
– Make a Schedule
If you have too many goals and you are feeling overwhelmed by their pressure (or rather the pressure you are putting on yourself), one of the best things to do is get organized. Having a clear schedule of what you need to do when to achieve certain results can help you massively when you are trying to decide whether your goals are realistic or not.
If you have narrowed your goals down to those 5-6 groups, then that’s great. You will only have to do this exercise a few times. In that case, choose a goal (like losing weight) and put a date next to it. When would you like to achieve it by? Then right down today’s date, and see how far you are from that goal.
You know where you stand and where you want to go. You even have the sub-goals that became steps towards the bigger goal, which is also great. And now you can calculate the time you have to achieve it.
Set a plan for the next year, then break it down to the 12 months, followed by the weeks and days, even down to the hours, if you like. How many hours a week do you need to dedicate to your goal? Is it reasonable? Do you need to lose a healthy amount of weight every week and still get the results you want?
There are a few things that you might find, and not just for the weight loss goal. You might notice that the amount of time you set yourself to achieve your goal is not enough, because achieving that goal during that time puts a massive strain on you both physically and mentally, or you simply don’t have enough time set aside to follow through the necessary steps.
You might also find that you simply feel like you can’t commit to every step you need to take, prolonging your progress. Now, you need to ask yourself this: am I okay with extending the timeframe? Or, on the other hand, can I increase my effort?
Depending on the answer, you can project whether the goal is for you at this time. If you want it so badly that it needs to happen right now, then you are most likely not ready to begin working on it just yet. Why? Because you lack the patience that’s needed to achieve the goal. And this way you are bound to skip steps or stop altogether.
If this goal is something you really want to achieve, wouldn’t it be better if you worked on it when you were in the right mindset, instead of setting yourself up for failure?
You might find that you start with 30 goals, but by the end of this exercise realize that you only really want to work on 2. Try not to judge yourself either way. Remember, this is your life, and achieving even one goal is better than having a list of 30 that you will never achieve. Give yourself some slack, you are doing great!
– One Goal at a Certain Time
Even if you have downsized and only have a bunch of goals left to achieve, you still might feel lost and overwhelmed. You want all of those goals equally, so what now? Should you pick one and leave the others?
Not necessarily. As we mentioned earlier, the routine is a key factor when we are trying to achieve our goals. Once you managed to downsize to 5 goals (we really think that’s a maximum at any time, but it could be a mixture of short and long term goals), you can dedicate a day to them.
This doesn’t mean that you will spend the whole day working on that specific goal. It simply means that the dedicated day you will work on your goal for x hours. This works best if you stagger the goals, already having them established.
Here’s How The Process Works:
The first five weeks are your transition period, which is a bit different. During these weeks you need to implement the changes into your life that are necessary to carry out your goals. Depending on the goals, this could be more work or less.
Give one week to one goal, so, the first week, you will be focusing on Goal no 1. Every day. If you decided to work on your goals for 1-2 hours a day, perfect. Then those 5-10 hours the first week will go into establishing the foundations of goal one.
For example, if your first goal is to lose weight, then you want to look at the steps you need to take to achieve that. You might want to swap your breakfast for the whole week and sign up for the gym. Two items ticked off, right?
Here comes the tricky part. The second week should be dedicated to establishing your second goal, but you also need to make sure you keep doing what you already started for goal one. Hopefully, if you went through the previous steps, you will know how much time you have for each goal, so this shouldn’t be an issue.
Repeat the process until you have all five goals (or as many as you want to achieve) set up and ready to rock and roll. Once you have done that, then you can dedicate Monday to Goal 1, Tuesday to Goal 2, etc. Those days, you will only add a tiny change, slowly increasing the things you do for that goal.
It’s important to rest at least 2 days when you completely switch off from your goals and relax your mind. This will be the hardest part, trust us!
– Be Flexible With Your List Of Goals
If you ever find that you are still overwhelmed, or that you took on a goal you no longer want to achieve, make sure you are willing to change them. Your goals aren’t set in stone, and you have the right to change your mind.
Don’t feel bad and don’t feel like you failed. Everything happens for a reason, so there needs to be room for change. It might be that your circumstances change, and you have less time than you thought you would. Be brave enough to admit it and extend your goals’ due date.
Also, if you find yourself having a lazy day, you can’t beat yourself up about it. Even if you haven’t done anything all week (or all month) towards a goal, it’s still okay. Remember that your goals are there to guide you and make you thrive to be a better person, and not to cause you more stress and agony.
There is a saying that a good businessman changes their plan and schedule every fifteen minutes to achieve success. Why? Because he learns from his mistakes and isn’t afraid to admit when he did something wrong, using it to start over with more chances of winning this time.
– Prioritize And Be Patient
If you absolutely can’t do more than one goal at a time, again, don’t beat yourself up about it. Achieving one goal at a time is as good as achieving ten. You can’t compare your journey to other people, remember? So, pick the one that’s the most important or urgent to you, and go through the steps above.
The good news is, that the 5-day plan will work in this case, too. The only difference is that your timeline will probably be shorter, or the transition period longer. But as long as it works for you, it doesn’t matter.
Patience is key either way. Achieving your goals isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. And remember, it isn’t exactly a race, so if you cross the finish line a month or a year later than planned, it doesn’t matter, because the main thing is that you took the journey.