A red “no crossing” sign.

When’s The Right Time To End A Goal? There’s 1 Telltale Sign

Particularly in the case of habit goals.

You’ve surprised yourself, yet again. This is the second goal that you’ve come to love. The first being read two books a month. And here you are once more, happily accomplishing your goal to run one mile a day.

Something that a year ago would have seemed impossible, you now do daily with ease.

Actually, with more than ease; most days you end up running two, three, even sometimes four miles in one session. Thoughts of a 10k have crossed your mind. And from there, marathons.


Second nature

The last several months of running have been life-changing and you’re grateful for them. Never have you felt healthier, looked better, smiled more. Running is no longer something you do, it’s something you are.

You are a runner.

As a runner, you don’t feel like your initial goal is all that necessary anymore. It’s become so second nature to you, it’s become so enmeshed in your life, that you often forget to note it on your goal tracker.

Running is part of your daily routine, after all. And so you wonder: is it time to retire this goal? 


My daughter

I recently concluded a goal that I had been working on for well over a year: Prepare my daughter for the world in at least one way each month.

Monthly, I would tackle one task imperative to setting my daughter up for success in the world. For instance:

  • Establish her college fund
  • Take a newborn sleep training course
  • Get life insurance policies for my wife and me

Administrative tasks that would ensure a bright future for her.


Ending the goal

Each month I would complete one major task and check it off the list.

Now, some dozen+ months later, the list has run dry. Sure, the role of parent is never finished, but as far as this goal goes, there are no longer enough tasks to warrant it. They’re more one-offs. Things that will be required occasionally, but not consistently.

Not monthly.

And so, with pride, I’ve since changed the status of the goal to DONE.


A person relaxing by the water.


The two types of goals

There are two types of goals:

  • Habit goals
  • Achievement goals

Achievement goals are one-time things you work towards. Think: run a marathon on June 1st. Habit goals, on the other hand, are aims that repeat. Think: run one mile a day. When you complete an achievement goal, that’s it. It’s done.

You either run the marathon or you don’t.

Habit goals though, by definition, have no strict end-point. You just keep doing them until they become habit.


When is the right time to end a goal?

The question arises, then, how do you know when a goal has become habit?

Looking at the goal with my daughter, this one didn’t necessarily become habitual. It simply ran out of tasks. I did everything I wanted to do for it and so, it’s done. In that respect, you could almost see the goal as a repeating achievement goal more than a habit goal.

But what of more traditional habit goals? For example:

  • Swim for 30 minutes each day;
  • Watch a new foreign film every other week;
  • Or call your grandma once a month.

How do you know when to move those goals to DONE?


Eating breakfast or taking a shower

The simple answer is: when it has become part of your lifestyle.

Like brushing your teeth, if you find yourself automatically swimming each day, it’s part of your lifestyle. If you watch a foreign film every other week without even thinking about it, it’s part of your lifestyle.

If you call your grandma each month like clockwork, it’s part of your lifestyle.


Who you are

When a goal has become so ingrained in your being that it is no longer something you do, but instead is something you are, that’s when you know.

At that point, if you so choose, you can move that goal to DONE on your goal tracker, phone note, or whatever you use to stay organized. You can go forth and focus on your other goals. It’s that simple. Considering it’s part of who you are, it should be that simple.

Like removing a support post from a tree to find that the tree stands on its own.


End a goal like a tree standing on its own.


Reasons to keep it active

That said, though a goal may be ingrained in your life, you may still want to keep it active.

For instance, I mentioned reading earlier. One of my current goals is to read two books a month. I’ve done this for a couple of years now and can probably trust myself enough to conclude the goal, seeing as it’s part of who I am.

I am a reader. (Actually, learner is probably a better descriptor but let’s not get lost in semantics.)

I leave it active, however, for two reasons:

  1. I like to keep track of the books I read.
  2. With reading, if I don’t actively stay on top of it, I fear my laziness will win out and I’ll slowly stop reading altogether.

So, while I could likely move this goal to DONE, I deliberately choose not to. That way I have an organized place to keep track of what I read, plus I ensure that, because it’s an active goal, I am aware of and constantly working towards it.


Open or closed

Looking at your own life, it’s easy to know when an achievement goal is done. Remember, you either run the marathon or you don’t. Either way though, it’s finished.

Concluding habit goals can be a little trickier until you know what to look for.

That in mind, ask yourself: Is this something I now instinctively do (like brushing my teeth)? Or do I still need the awareness and planning of the goal? Once the goal is part of who you are, feel free to retire it. But until then, leave it open.


Or make a change

Returning back to the running example from earlier, you conclude that you are a runner. Sunshine or rain, night or day, active or DONE, you will run. Regardless of what some tracker says or the weather dictates, running that mile is part of your routine.

It’s part of who you are.

Yet, you want more. So, instead of moving it to DONE or leaving it as-is, you decide to change it.

Rather than run one mile a day, your new goal is to run three miles a day. You are a runner, but this new goal is a challenge. And so, until three miles becomes part of your lifestyle, you leave the goal active, pushing yourself to new levels of goal success.

Have fun on the track.


PS: Let me show you how to achieve your goals.

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