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Why it is Okay To Fall Short of Your Goals

by Mark Ferguson on December 29, 2013 · 14 comments


Yes, another goal article but it is December and you should expect it.  

I will try to make this article a little different from the normal goal article about how important they are to help you succeed.  To be clear; I think goals are extremely important for success as I wrote about in my Big Goal article.  However, part of making big goals is taking the chance that you won’t accomplish all of them or possibly any of them.  It is okay if you do not accomplish your goals, the point is not to accomplish goals but to do better than you would have done without goals.

Why Even Set Goals?

The point of goals is to make yourself better.  

Goals make you work harder, smarter and make you think of new ways to do things, at least they should.   This is why I am a huge proponent of BIG GOALS.  If you make little goals that are easy to reach are you really challenging yourself?  If I bought 3 long-term rentals in 2013; am I challenging myself if I make a goal to buy to 3 rentals in 2014?  I would say no; I already know I can buy 3 rental properties so it is not a challenge to me.  I challenge to me would be to buy 6, which is my goal for 2014.

I will have to increase the amount of money I make, increase the amount I save, find a different way to buy properties or do something else different to reach that bigger goal.  Having a big goal forces me to improve, change and learn new methods.

Small Goals Promote Complacency

If I were to make small goals like buy 3 rental properties in 2014, which I have already done I may stop at 3.  What if I hit the mother-load and one landlord wants to sell me three properties in March at an amazing price with seller financing?  If I buy three properties in March I probably would try to keep buying properties, but  I would not have that same drive or determination because I already reached my goal.  I have already told myself it is okay if I don’t succeed, because I reached my goal.  I will probably not try as hard to buy more properties with a small goal than I would if I still had to figure out a way to buy three more properties.  Setting small goals allows you to relax.  Once you relax, it is very hard to get back that drive and motivation.

What If I Fail to Reach My Goal and Feel Bad

Who cares!  If you want to succeed in life there is no room for feeling sorry for yourself for not reaching goals.  If you feel bad about not reaching a goal and that affects you in a negative way, you have more pressing items that need fixed than goal setting.  The first thing to remember is that the goal is not the end result you are looking for, but a means to an end.  The goals are meant to push you along your path in life at an increased pace so you can get ahead of the game.

If I only buy 4 or 5 properties in 2014 will I have failed?  No.  I will have probably bought more houses with a big goal than if my goal was to only buy 3 houses.  The big goals keeps pushing you not to give up or get complacent.  The big goal pushed me to do more and try harder than the small goal and that is all that matters.

It May Even be Better Not to Reach Your Goals

This may sound crazy, but if you set a big goal and don’t reach it, it may be a good thing.  If you reach your goal, you naturally slow down (notice a recurring theme yet?).  I set a goal to sell 200 houses in 2013 as  real estate agent and I will not reach that goal.  I will end up selling about 185 houses, which is damn good!  It is much more than I have sold in any other year and the big goal helped push me to do it.  In fact, I didn’t even have to work harder to sell that many houses; I worked smarter.  I ended up taking over my parents real estate team and many of those sales were from other agents on our team.  I have no doubt that the big goals helped push me to take over the business.


Make big goals for 2014 and don’t be afraid if they scare you a little bit.  Imagine how awesome it would be if you accomplished those goals and how it would change your life.  Don’t be afraid to change your goals if you find new and better ways to spend your time.  I’m not saying you can lessen or make your goals easier, but if you had an amazing opportunity don’t let your goals stop you.  If you have a goal to pay off your mortgage and then suddenly you have an investment opportunity that would bring you five times the return of paying off your mortgage; make the investment.

Photo: stuartpilbrow

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Madeleine Romanello December 29, 2013 at 9:30 am

Exactly what happened to me – I fell short of my goal to sell $ 20m this year as a real estate broker but I reached $ 16 m ( with $ 3.5 m in deals in contract that did not close – most due no fault of mine) so I did almost SELL $ 20 m. I guess my goal should have been to CLOSE $ 20 m ! I set a goal of double my sales in 2012 and ended up increasing my sales by 60% in one year – I think if I had not set my goals so high , I would not have stayed focused, pushed myself and come very close. My goal next year is $ 30 m and I feel much more confident that I can do this !


Mark Ferguson December 29, 2013 at 6:28 pm

That is awesome Madeliene! That is exactly why we need big goals. Congratulations!


Sharon Vornholt December 29, 2013 at 11:25 am

Great post Mark.

Like they say, “Aim for the moon but if you only hit the stars it’s still not a bad day”. I think in the end, goals help you to be the “best you” that you can be. Challenging yourself should always just be for you and the goals and dreams that you have as an individual. They shouldn’t be intended to impress someone else. In the end it is your journey and you should be enjoying the trip not just they payoff for accomplishing your goals.

And congrats on your home sales. That’s an awesome number.

Happy New Year!


Mark Ferguson December 29, 2013 at 6:30 pm

Thank you Shannon! I love that saying and it is so true!


Gerald Harris December 29, 2013 at 3:30 pm

I remember hearing a Real Estate Guru about 15 years ago telling people to write out there goals. I did it for about 7 or 8 years but kept coming up short. I would accomplish maybe 40% of my goals, so i stopped making them. Big Mistake. I realize that I would make goals that I knew i could achieve and then self sabotage. I would stop completely. Making goals that challenge you is the real key. You have to find a big enough “Why” to keep going. So setting a worthwhile goal is vital. Great Article!


Mark Ferguson December 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Thank you Gerald! It is very easy to self sabotage ourselves. I thi knot is much more difficult to break trough those barriers and accomplish big things. Big goals are a huge part of that.


Dawn Anastasi December 29, 2013 at 8:15 pm

Not only write out your goals, but post them on your blog on Bigger Pockets. Put them as a one-line sentence in your profile. Believe me, you’ll have people asking you throughout the year, “so, how close are you to making your goal?” and that will keep you motivated!


mark ferguson December 30, 2013 at 11:59 am

That is a great point Dawn. The more public your goals are, the more accountability you have. Writing my goals in public really makes me want to accomplish them.


Jason December 30, 2013 at 7:27 am

Kinda sounds like last year for us. We made the goal to double our passive income last year. We had no idea how we would accomplish that goal. By setting the way point, it forced us to sit down and figure out how. We hit 90% increase. Our goal this year is to increase our passive income 150% and purchase 12 more rentals. A 400% increase from how many we normally purchase each year. Let the fun begin.



mark ferguson December 30, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Nice Jason! After reading these comments I think I may need even bigger goals!


Shaun January 4, 2014 at 5:11 pm

I will say it is actually CRITIAL that you fail to accomplish some of your goals. If you achieve every goal you aren’t pushing yourself.
Now don’t set stupid hard goals you can’t possibly achieve, but make sure you stretch yourself and have at least some “can I really do this? ” thoughts.
I’d say ideally you would hit like 80% of your goals.
If you are hitting well under 50% you are probably being unrealistic or need to improve your methods and efficiency to improve.


Michael January 5, 2014 at 2:08 pm

So true Mark. It is hard to believe but we are setting goals of 48 rehabs in 2014. This is a major growth year for my company and now with a partner it is very realistic. Doing my first 3 day Bootcamp in January as well so lots of exciting things happening.
Keep it going!!!! Wishing you all your the best in 2014!!!


mark ferguson January 8, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Michael, I am still amazed at a goal of 48 flips! You made me want to up mine from 15.


mark ferguson January 8, 2014 at 11:32 am

Thanks for the comment. It is hard to know what the sweet spot is. I think it varies with each person and what level of not reaching your goals they can take while still being motivated


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