Didn’t Hit Your Quarterly Goals? Let’s Talk About It

The end of the quarter is here and I have some exciting news for you: I didn’t hit all of my quarterly goals. Before you clutch your pearls, let me tell you something else: There is NO shame in not finishing your goals. 

It took me some time to feel OKAY about not completing my goals. The hustle shame is real and, as entrepreneurs, we’re constantly told to do more. But I learned a long time ago that I’m not always a completionist. Sometimes, the best thing is to walk away from something that’s not bringing me joy or helping me anymore. 

But if you’re reviewing your quarterly progress or looking at your metrics and feeling like you didn’t do enough, let’s talk about shame as business owners — and how learning to let go and say “No” can help us overcome it.

Do you have to be a ‘completionist’?

You don’t have to finish everything you start, contrary to what your parents, grandparents, or guardians may have said. 

After graduating high school, I decided I would read all of the Lord of The Rings trilogy. Well, I got through all but the last 100 pages (yup, RIGHT up to the very end), and that was it for me. I wasn’t feeling any joy and realized I was just forcing myself to read. So I shut the book and never picked it up again. This story HORRIFIES my completionist husband, so if you’re similarly appalled, you’re not alone.

Now, before you come for me, Tolkien-heads, I’ve seen all the movies. The books were just not my cup of tea. 

no shame if you missed your quarterly goals

What does this have to do with you and your business? I hope it demonstrates that you DON’T need to be a completionist (or obliger) as a business owner. You’re not in grade school anymore. There’s no one waiting to give you a shiny perfect reading award for finishing every page.

You started your business to be in control. 

If you get to choose where your time and energy goes, why waste it? 

Of course, I’m not telling you to throw your goals out the window or to give up striving toward your big vision for your business. I believe that you need to honor your commitments to your clients, customers, and partners. However, it is up to you to decide the direction of your business, and sometimes it’s okay to pivot or say no to future or current projects.

Watch out for shiny object syndrome

Many of us–especially those of us with ADHD–set many goals because it can be hard to nail down your focus to one thing. Sometimes, the new thing we want to try seems more appealing.

‘Shiny object syndrome’ pulls us away from what we know we need to do and makes us feel like we’re making progress when really we’re not. Before you know it, you forget about goal #1 while you work on goal #2 until you see something else–and so the cycle goes. 

While ‘shiny object syndrome’ can be an issue all in itself (hello, overcommitment), it can also lead to a lack of motivation.

When you’ve figured out how to do something well, it can start to feel boring after a while. Then you find yourself pushing through to the end, just to finish something. But when your motivation is just checking a box to say “You did it!” what’s the point?

What to do when you feel stuck

Are you feeling stuck right now, despite all the projects you started and quarterly goals you set for yourself 3 months ago? I’ve been there and so have many of my clients.

When my clients get stuck, I try to get to the bottom of the feeling. Maybe it is a lack of motivation or a strong case of shiny object syndrome. Sometimes they just need to set aside the project and take a break before coming back to it. And sometimes, they just need to step away entirely or say “No.”

Before I decide (for myself or my clients) that it’s okay to step away and not complete a goal, I go through a checklist. This checklist helps me decide if this is one of those times where I grit my teeth and get it done or if I should step away.

The “Feeling Stuck” Checklist

Question #1: Have I sat with the ‘stuckness’?

Sometimes, you have to sit with the feeling of being stumped and unmotivated, and you’ve got to identify the emotion behind it. Do you just feel ill-equipped and need more resources to help you finish? Or are you feeling resistance because it’s something that doesn’t align with your values? 

When you reflect on WHY you feel stuck, you’ll often find that you’re not sure what the next step is. Instead of quitting, get more clarity on your next steps instead of stepping away entirely.

Question #2: Am I still (truly) motivated by this goal?

Your priorities are going to shift over time, and that’s okay. Let it go if your goal doesn’t fit your values or priorities now.

Question #3: Do I need support?

Is this something you can do on your own, or is this something you need to delegate to someone else with more training?

There is NO shame in asking for help when you don’t have the resources or if your project doesn’t mesh well with your real life. Sometimes we don’t realize how taxing a project can be until we take it on.

Even if you want to do it yourself, some gentle accountability support can help you develop your consistency muscle! (I can help with this, but even partnering with a trusted colleague for some extra accountability can be a helpful boost.)

Question #4: Do I need to sleep on it?

Sometimes, the mind is willing, but the body is weak.

When you’re tired and overwhelmed, you might think it’s time to give up this goal. You can only do so much. But before you press the detonator, de-prioritize your to-do list and take a nap (literally or figuratively).

There’s nothing wrong with saying “not right now” and putting yourself first. After a little rest—or some time with a favorite hobby, you might even find that you have the energy to tackle your goal or a clearer mind to decide if it’s worth completing.

The best way to end shame? Normalize saying no.

I hope my mental checklist can help you decide if your Q1 (or any other) goals are worth carrying into Q2 and beyond. It works for me and my clients who are feeling overwhelmed by their lack of progress or shifting priorities.

But there’s one more element to ending the shame around not meeting our goals: Saying no.

“No” is empowering. Saying no is important if you want to overcome the shame around not finishing goals or finishing projects because, as Greg McKeown (and maybe others before him) put it, “if it isn’t a clear yes, then it’s a clear no.”

Remember, my friend; working hard doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Don’t be afraid to kon-mari your business projects. If it’s not bringing you joy, it’s time to go. 

You can take a step back and say, “Thank you, I’ve learned what I need to from this, but now I’m done.” That’s powerful!