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The Most Likely Consequence Of Setting Unrealistic Goals

Personal Goals | By: Katie Lister

December 20, 2023

What is the most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals? What are unrealistic goals? What are the disadvantages of setting unrealistic goals? How can I set more realistic goals? How can I achieve my goals? If you are looking to answers to these and more goal-setting related questions, this article is for you.

My name is Katie Lister, a practicing Registered Nurse. I am also a thought leader and the founder of Growth Gals, a supportive network for women. Growth Gals aims to empower women in different areas of everyday life by offering guidance, advice and the tools needed to lead a healthy, fulfilling life. Goals setting is one of the topics covered at GG.

In this article, I will tell you everything you need to know about setting goals, particularly understanding unrealistic goals and how to set realistic goals.

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Katie Lister

Katie Lister

Written by Katie Lister, RN, BScN. An experienced Registered Nurse, Group Facilitator, Life Coach, and Community Leader. Read Katie's Full Author Bio

Goal Setting is Hard, I Get It!

You’re ready to make a change in your life. You’re feeling motivated. You’ve been told to dream big, that you can do anything you set your mind to, and manifest whatever you want in the world. But what could be the problem with setting a goal too high? What is the most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals?

In order to become the person you envision yourself as, you need to intentionally set goals and work towards them. One of the most common pitfalls is setting unrealistic goals which can be detrimental to personal growth. This article will tell you everything you need to know about achievable goal setting including how to stop setting unrealistic goals and set attainable goals instead.

Sticking to your goals is tough, we get it. You’re inspired one day so you set a big goal, but, in a couple weeks life happens and you get thrown off course or in a few months you get bored and quit. Either way, you end up feeling demotivated and stuck in the same place you were before. You’re not alone, we’ve all been there. This article will help define what an unrealistic goal is, the psychology behind why we set these unattainable goals, examples, and how to set more realistic goals moving forward.

What are Unrealistic Goals and Why Do People Set Unrealistic Goals?

To fully understand the most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals, it is important to distinguish what an unrealistic goal is. Unrealistic goals are goals that are not doable, practical, or achievable. They typically set higher standards than one can reach. These goals are not in alignment with one’s current skills or abilities. 

Generally speaking, we tend to be overconfident in our own abilities to try and boost our self-esteem. We may also simply be uncertain of what’s actually possible. We have heard about overnight success stories with crash diets and social media influencers, so we think this is the norm and with enough determination and will power, we can do it too. 

Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.” – Bill Gates 

People may also have a very painful WHY behind our goal, whereby they desperately want to avoid the opposite outcome. Perhaps their father just had a fatal heart attack and they want to ensure they don’t end up with the same fate, hence the ‘run a marathon in 6 weeks’ goal. Or perhaps they grew up in foster care, moving every few months, so they want to purchase a forever home they can call theirs in order to feel secure.


The intention behind these scenarios is absolutely valid, understandable, and an excellent driver for progress. But it’s important to recognize that unrealistic goals are not going to set you up for success. 

Disadvantages of Setting Unrealistic Goals 

Why is it important to set realistic goals? Bluntly put, setting unrealistic goals is setting yourself up to fail. Granted, failure is absolutely necessary for growth, and if you never fail that means you’re never trying anything new, pushing yourself, or getting out of your comfort zone. However, if you are constantly setting unrealistic goals that are totally out of reach, you’re absolutely setting yourself up for failure every single time. This is discouraging, unmotivating, depressing, frustrating, and anxiety-inducing. None of that sounds fun or like a formula to success. 

Setting unrealistic goals is unmotivating.

You might be all fired up, full of inspiration, and excited about all the possibilities when you set your goal. Your first mistake was likely not developing an action plan because if you did this, you’d likely see pretty quickly that the time, energy, skills, and capacities to achieve your desired result within the timeline you set out for yourself is virtually impossible. 

Setting unrealistic goals leads to feeling defeated.

The most likely consequence of setting unrealistic goals is feeling so defeated that you lose confidence in your capability to achieve anything. If you consistently do this, you are likely to get to the point where you give up. What’s the point in setting goals if you just fail time after time? 

Setting unrealistic goals ultimately leads to stagnancy and regression.

After multiple defeats, you’re likely going to give up on working towards anything as it has been deflating. Stagnation happens when you’re not motivated to take action steps towards anything in life. You’ll blindly accept whatever comes your way, such as settling with the aches and pains that come from not moving, a job that is super uninspiring, and interest payment piling up. 

However, there is no such thing as stagnancy. Nothing in life stays still. You are getting older every millisecond of every day. You are either moving forward or moving backwards. All living things on earth are either growing towards maturity or they are deteriorating towards death. Without intentional action forward, you will regress backwards. 

Examples of Unrealistic Goals

Some example of unrealistic goals: 

  • Running a marathon in 6 weeks if you’re currently sedentary 
  • Winning a pro surf competition this year if you can’t swim 
  • Losing 50 pounds this month
  • Buying a house when you’re currently drowning in student debt
  •  Becoming fluent in a new language in two months

These are bigger goals that in the long term are absolutely doable, however in the time frame allotted virtually impossible. 

Another version of unrealistic goals is setting goals that are completely out of your control. Dr. Berkman, Neuroscientist at the University of Oregon has defined goals as “desired outcomes that wouldn’t otherwise happen without intentional action.” If your goal is something that is completely out of your control, then it simply contradicts the definition of a goal itself. If intentional action does not lead to your desired result, then it cannot be a goal.


Some examples of unrealistic goals out of your control:

  •  Meet your soulmate within the next month 
  • Get your partner to lose 15 lbs.
  • Winning the lottery 
  • Having your friend to forgive you after you betrayed her trust 

Notice how these examples are all something that no matter what you do, YOU don’t have the power to achieve the desired result. Of course there are many actions one can take to increase their likelihood of the above outcomes. But those are unrealistic goals because the control is completely in someone else’s hands or are superhuman results. 

Why Is It Important To Set Realistic Goals?

If you’re reading this article, pretty sure you want to be growing and moving forwards in life. So set yourself up for success. DREAM BIG, but set a realistic, attainable goal that will get you closer to your ultimate dream. If you’ve failed at goal-setting in the past, not to worry. Start with identifying your WHY to discover what goal is really important to you

Realistic goals are not only important, they are necessary. Goal setting actually increases inspiration, motivation, and drive and is good for your mental wellbeing. It feels really gratifying, rewarding, and confidence-boosting when you do achieve your goal. 

Everyone should still visualize their dream life and aim high. However, the actual goal itself that you make needs to be realistic and attainable. It should be challenging to ensure motivation, but not unrealistic. 

Here are important goal setting questions you need to answer to set you up for success. 

How to stop Setting Unrealistic Goals and Reframe Them To Be More Attainable

Setting short term goals can help achieve specific long term goals. Let’s take the first examples. 

Running a marathon in 6 weeks → Complete a 5 km race in 6 weeks. Going for walks or run/walk combos 3x/week could be realistic steps to complete that goal. Perhaps you could run a marathon within 6 months or a year! 

Winning a pro surf competition this year if you can’t swim → Catch a wave independently. The steps may be to take swimming lessons and book a surf retreat holiday. 

Losing 50 lbs. in a month → Perhaps it could be 50 lbs. in 1 year instead for more sustainable results. Breaking it down, consistently lose 1 lb./week. 

Buying a house when you’re currently drowning in student debt → pay off X dollars per month in debt. Build an emergency savings account.

Becoming fluent in a new language in two months → Be able to understand and converse at a toddler level in two months. Take lessons and plan a trip to immerse yourself in the native-speaking country.

These goals are all attainable in a longer period of time. Based on research, a good time frame for goal setting is approximately 3 months. Understand the WHY behind the goal, then break it down into more short term goals to help achieve the bigger long term goal. 

Growth Gals Can Help You Achieve Your Goals!

Growth Gals is an approachable community of women who are simply interested in stepping into the best versions of themselves and creating their ideal life. 

Growth Gals promotes positive change by helping individuals discover who they truly are, what they value, and who they want to become. Through intentional goal setting, Growth Gals helps women get unstuck and achieve their goals by helping them to answer the questions ‘What is The Most Important Step in Prioritizing Goals.’ 

You can subscribe to the Growth Gals newsletter for future offerings such as a goal setting journal, coaching, and support groups and keep an eye out on their upcoming newsletter!


As humans, we are wired to overestimate our abilities, get spurts of motivation and therefore set unrealistic goals. This leads to feeling deflated and failure, not getting the results we desired. However, if you follow this guide and set short term goals to help achieve a long term goal, you are much more likely to be successful in achieving your desired outcome. Join a community like Growth Gals to surround yourself with likeminded women and get support in achieving your goals.

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