If you’re working towards becoming fit and you have set the smaller goals “to eat more healthily,” “to run a 5K,” and “to swim 1 mile, 3 days per week,” you may find that you do not have the time or energy to do all of those things at once. You can prioritize; if you want to run a marathon, first running a 5K may be more important to your goal than swimming every week. You may want to continue eating better, because that is good for your overall health in addition to helping you run.
Welcome to the club! Great question. There are any number of reasons why we may be unable to achieve a goal by the deadline. Your instincts are on the mark. When you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to achieve your goal by the initial date you set for yourself, revisit the goal. If it is a big goal, break the goal down into smaller goals and set deadlines that are realistic to achieve.
So first, we have to make sure we're not shortchanging ourselves when we're setting goals. If the goal is no stretch for us, there's no point to it. For example, if I set a goal to run 2 km every day and I already run 1.8 km every day, I'm not challenging myself. Worse, I'm probably boring myself. A much better goal might be to participate in and finish a particular race. That would be more of a challenge, and it's challenge that keeps us interested.
Remember, goal setting is an ongoing activity, not just a means to an end. Build in reminders to keep yourself on track, and make regular time-slots available to review your goals. Your end destination may remain quite similar over the long term, but the action plan you set for yourself along the way can change significantly. Make sure the relevance, value, and necessity remain high.
^ Creek, Jennifer; Lougher, Lesley (2008). "Goal setting". Occupational therapy and mental health (4th ed.). Edinburgh; New York: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier. pp. 111–113 (112). ISBN 9780443100277. OCLC 191890638. Client goals are usually set on two or three levels. Long-term goals are the overall goals of the intervention, the reasons why the client is being offered help and the expected outcome of intervention... Intermediate goals may be clusters of skills to be developed, attitudes to be changed or barriers to be overcome on the way to achieving the main goals... Short-term goals are the small steps on the way to achieving major goals.
Goals that are pursued to fulfill intrinsic values or to support an individual's self-concept are called self-concordant goals. Self-concordant goals fulfill basic needs and align with what psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott called an individual's "True Self". Because these goals have personal meaning to an individual and reflect an individual's self-identity, self-concordant goals are more likely to receive sustained effort over time. In contrast, goals that do not reflect an individual's internal drive and are pursued due to external factors (e.g. social pressures) emerge from a non-integrated region of a person and are therefore more likely to be abandoned when obstacles occur.