written by LOU BLASER

A version of this essay first appeared in Midlife Cues, a weekly newsletter about intentional living in our middle years. Get it in your inbox; you're going to love it.


“The point of setting goals isn’t to reach them,” Tara McMullin, author of What Works, once said.

“The point of setting goals is to change our behavior and teach us what we need to learn.” — Tara McMullin

If you set challenging goals this year and you earnestly worked on them, you have made strides in changing your behavior. No matter if you reached your goal or not.

If you set a goal to stop smoking this year, and you truly worked on this goal throughout the year, then you — more than likely — stopped 1 or 2 bad habits and created better ones to help you achieve the goal.

That means progress. 👏🏼

Even if you weren’t 100% successful. Even if there were times you gave in and reached for a smoke.

This is one of those mindset-shift things.

As someone raised to celebrate only tangible end results, I had to learn this lesson over and over.

It meant challenging my goal-setting beliefs.

It meant reframing the stories I tell myself about what it means when I don’t reach a number.

It meant re-orienting my focus to day-to-day habits, more than simply the end result.

• • •

It is frustrating to not hit your number… whatever that number may represent. Weight, revenue, salary increase, performance mark, books read, new connections made, recipes tried, whatever.

There’s an emotional component to missing your mark — especially when you worked hard to hit it.

I will not sit here and write that those things do not matter or that they are not real.

Because if we’re feeling it, then it’s real and they matter.

What we can do is work to reframe our experience of it.

Or as my friend Sean says, “shift the camera angle ever so slightly so you can see a different view.”

In this episode of the No BS Agency podcast, Pia Silva drops truth bombs about what it means when we’ve missed our goals and how to set ourselves up for the new year.

Although she’s specifically talking about business revenue goals, her insights are applicable to most other kinds of goals.

  • Get into reality. What were your goals based on? Did you work on them? Were you actually in action or were you simply in motion?
  • Answer this question for yourself, “Are you in a better position compared to 6 months ago, a year ago?” Were you working on skills, better habits, and laying a foundation?
  • Make a plan for the next year. Use your answers to these questions to help you plan for the next year.

It’s okay to not hit all your goals all the time. Missed goals simply mean new information. — Pia Silva


We often start the year with replenished reserves of hope, excitement, and determination.

But for some, the end of the year can be a letdown, when we look back and try to measure what we managed to accomplish in the year.

Do remember:

Each step we made toward those goals — each attempt, each movement no matter how minuscule — was a deposit into our self-confidence bank.

And we must recognize those and celebrate, for we have not sat by the sidelines and simply waited.


“A goal is not always meant to be reached. It often serves simply as something to aim at.” — Bruce Lee

If we moved toward the direction we were aiming at, it wasn’t a miss. And we didn’t fail.


Three Atypical Questions to Spice Up Your Year-end Review

I’m always looking for ways to spice up my process so things don’t get boring and I can look forward to the exercise toward the end of December.

In recent years, a handful of unusual questions have added a new dimension to my assessment of how my year went.

If your year-end review process has gotten stale or a bit ho-hum 😉, consider adding these to change things up.

You can listen to the episode or read the complete transcript here.


I grew up believing I needed to prove myself. To everyone. All the time.

And I learned that the way to do this most effectively was to hit my mark. All the time.

When I set a bar, and don’t clear it, it is emotionally devastating.

Or I should say, it used to be devastating.

I still get frustrated but it’s no longer crippling.

I’ve learned in my midlife, to see things differently, to recognize and celebrate more, and to be kinder to myself.

Ahh. Just one of the joys of midlife wisdom.

Here’s wishing you all the self-compassion and self-pride as you sit down for your year-end review.

Cool Beans,
Lou Blaser


A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Midlife Cues and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on exploring how to navigate, thrive, and turn midlife into the best phase in our life.