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Falling short of a fitness goal? Here are 4 steps to get back on track.

by Kelton Wright

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We’ve all read the importance of having goals, how to make them, how to keep them, but what happens when, despite best efforts, we fail to reach them?

It’s easy to focus on the rah-rah part of achievements, after all, most Instagram posts are goals met, not failed. But it’s silly to pretend everyone achieves every goal. Plenty of athletes reach for the stars, only to land on the bench a few times — but however commonplace unmet goals might be, they still sting. Here are four ways to soften the blow … and keep the momentum:

1. Take a breather—a ten-minute one.

Missing a goal feels lousy, and that’s normal. But it’s important to investigate why it feels lousy. It might seem obvious on the surface, but sometimes it’s a little more embedded. Before berating yourself or moving on to the next goal, take some time to meditate. Notice how you feel. Is it just about being able to do a certain number of push-ups, or is there something deeper driving you? Try the Headspace Sport Analysis pack, if you’re looking to review your performance with a healthy perspective.

2. Failing makes way for learning.

After you’ve tackled the emotions of missing that goal, look at the process with a practical lens. Was it a matter of fitting in training sessions to your calendar? Was proper fuel a trouble spot? Would you benefit from teaming up with someone for accountability? Small adjustments might be all it takes to reach your next goal. After all, the theory of marginal gains led the British to seven gold medals in track cycling at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Sir David Brailsford, head of British Cycling, said, “Aiming for gold was too daunting … It struck me that we should think small, not big, and adopt a philosophy of continuous improvement … Forget about perfection; focus on progression.”

Falling short of a fitness goal? Here are 4 steps to get back on track.

3. Next time, try process goals.

If your goals have evaded you for some time, maybe a singular goal is the wrong approach for you. For the next round, implement process goals. Instead of wanting to be able to lift a certain amount, make your goal to lift a set number of times a week. This is a twist on the classic “enjoy the journey” idea. When you’re mindful of the process, it allows you to be less focused on the outcome, reducing pressure and making it easier to keep energy high.

4. Have another goal in the holster.

It helps to keep feeling good if there’s always another goal on the horizon. Like a job hunt, it’s easy to feel let down if you only apply for one job and don’t get it. The best approach is to keep applying throughout the process. The same applies to athletic goals — always have another on the horizon so you can continue to improve and learn.

Alternately, if you tackle every goal with ease, are you pushing yourself to your full potential? A few achievable goals are important for motivation, but seeing what you’re capable of has its merits. Make your next goal like you usually would, and then up the ante.

This piece was produced in partnership with Nike Training Club. To get started on your fitness journey, download the NTC app here.

Kelton Wright

Kelton Wright is the Editorial Director of Movement and Sport at Headspace. She is a published author, an avid cyclist, and a slow but enthusiastic trail runner. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter at @keltonwrites.

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