The other day I was walking home thinking about my goals when a thought came into my mind that stopped me in my tracks.

The goal I was specifically thinking about was increasing my monthly income by a small amount this month. The “this month” part was really important to me. This was an urgent goal, so I was focused on the timeline.

The thought that came to me was a simple question: 

“What if I don’t hit it this month?”

The only two answers to this question were instantly clear to me. I could keep working or give up. This led me down another train of thought. Why would 30 days change my motivation for reaching my goal? If I can’t achieve it on the timeline I set for myself, is it a goal not worth pursuing?

This led me to realize that the motivations behind our goals are not time bound. We only set timeframes on what we want to accomplish and never why.

Perhaps if we focus less on when we get what we want and instead focus on why we want it in the first place, the journey towards our goals will be more productive and fulfilling.

This is a lesson I think we all need to spend more time with. I see this false sense of urgency all the time with my training clients. 

I want to lose 10 pounds this month.
I want to run this fast by this race.
I want to lift this much before this happens.

Having deadlines can certainly keep us motivated and working hard. I’m not saying we should drop every deadline we set for ourselves, but it’s really important to consider what you’ll do if you miss your self-imposed deadline.

What happens if you don’t lose the weight this month? Will you just give up because what’s the point if you can’t have it right now? You only lost 9 pounds, so I guess you might as well eat all the McDonalds.

When you remember your why for setting the goal in the first place, the timeline becomes completely meaningless if you miss it. Losing 10 pounds this month likely has little to do with this month. It has a lot more to do with looking, feeling, and performing better for most people and those goals are timeless.

Timeless goals don’t need deadlines. They only need progress. You need only move closer to them over time to be successful now.

My reasons for increasing my income this month have nothing to do with this month and everything to do with creating a better life for myself and adding value to others. Giving up on improving myself has never been and never will be an option I consider. Knowing this, I needn’t worry about what I will do if I come up short. I will carry on regardless.

Consider this the next time you set a deadline for yourself. The timeline you set for yourself was completely arbitrary and unimportant. The reason you set the goal in the first place is what really matters and where your focus should be.

Missing a deadline on a goal should do nothing to your effort in pursuing the goal. Carry on anyway.