What do you do when a goal you’ve been aspiring to no longer feels right? Giving up an old goal can leave you feeling defeated. Like you didn’t make it.
But here are 3 very good reasons why letting go of old goals can be not only right, but also necessary.
1. Values change over time
Despite what you might think, you are probably not the same person you were 10 years ago. Change happens gradually, and it can be difficult to detect. But it doesn’t mean that it didn’t happen.
Just recently, I didn’t know what to read and decided to take out some old favourites again. I chose Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, two books that I read back-to-back when I was around 18. I remember absolutely loving Wuthering Heights, but not so much Jane Eyre (especially the ending was very unsatisfying to me).
Therefore, I was so surprised when, despite remembering the plot of both novels, my opinion was suddenly reversed. Jane Eyre now seems like a perfect story to me, with lovable characters and just the right ending. Wuthering Heights, however, turned from a tragic romance to a book about a bunch of horrible people that the world would be better off without.
How did I go from pitying Heathcliff and Catherine to despising them? Well, my values changed. A lot. I’m no longer a teenager with an unrealistic view of romantic relationships. I also no longer believe that being wronged in the past excuses the terrible things people do later on in life. And from what I gathered, this change of opinion is quite common amongst people who read the novel as teenagers, and then again as adults.
But if we can view a book so drastically differently a decade later, what does it tell us about the changes we’ve undergone over time?
It tells us that it’s more than possible that we have formed some unrealistic goals when we were young that just no longer align with us. It shows that life teaches us lessons that we shouldn’t ignore, even if that means letting go of childhood dreams.
2. Times and circumstances are not the same
Say your old goals weren’t based on a highly romanticised view of the world. Say they were sensible goals. Like gaining job security, having a brilliant career, buying a house. Then, Covid happened. People with apparently secure jobs were suddenly out of work. The employer for whom you worked your butt off disposed of you like of an old sock. People who had huge loans on their property started struggling to pay off debt.
I know lots of people who experienced something like this. People who sacrificed their personal lives for a job that did nothing for them when things got difficult. People who suddenly realised that certainty doesn’t exist.
My partner, who always told me that he wouldn’t like to create his own business for fear of lacking security, suddenly changed his mind about that. And that’s okay. Times change, and sometimes you realise that your goals and aspirations were based on a worldview that suddenly comes crumbling down.
Circumstances change, too. I, for instance, always wanted to focus on my career. Until my son came along. Not that I don’t care about work anymore – I do! But having a family is fulfilling in a way that work just can’t be (for me!), and I didn’t realise that before.
Now, having a brilliant career and making tons of money isn’t my goal anymore. Instead, I want my business no yield a comfortable revenue while leaving enough time for my personal life.
3. Outgrowing old goals is a sign of personal growth
Doesn’t it make sense that as we grow as people, we will outgrow old goals?
I do understand why this can feel wrong though. You set your goals at one point and imagined that you would continue developing into the direction you set. Of course, you wouldn’t stand still, but rather grow into the person you aspired to be.
The problem is that growth isn’t linear. The things you learn, your experiences, the people you meet all mould and shape you in a way that you couldn’t have predicted. And that’s a good thing! Who wants to be the stubborn person who never changes just so they don’t have to admit that they were wrong in the first place?
Giving up on a goal that no longer aligns with you is not a sign of defeat. It means that you are keeping an open mind. That you follow your current dreams, not some old dreams that will give you no satisfaction if they come true. That you are presently in charge of your own happiness.
Don’t be like Scarlett O’Hara who clung to her old love even though her new one was right in front of her. It caused her to lose everything she might have had!
Accept that your younger self does not get to define who you have to become as an adult. It’s great to have goals, but it’s equally important to adapt those goals. Goals are more like guidelines for your next few steps, really.
And if, by chance, a goal you set years ago still feels right to you? Great! Keep it as long as it works. Just don’t let anyone (not even your past self) push you in a direction that no longer aligns with who you are.
What goals have you let go of because they no longer worked for you? Please let me know in the comments! 🙂