“I’m stuck and lack focus. I don’t know what to do now that I’ve achieved my goal! In fact, I’m finding myself wasting time and sliding into activities that will mess up my business if I continue like this.”

This was me complaining in a mastermind meeting a few weeks ago where it was my turn on the Hot Seat. My colleagues were waiting for me to share what I was working on, the results I was getting, my challenges and requests.

However, on this day, the only thing I could think of was the fact that I was stuck. I’d achieved my goal so effortlessly that it felt as if there was nothing else to do.

The goal was to sign up clients for a coaching group. I was thinking more of a virtual group because I hadn’t had much success setting up a physical group.

Signups for 1-1 coaching were going on well, but I really wanted to transition to group coaching…and I was running out of time. It seemed as if I’d have to ramp up my marketing or move the goal to the next month.

Then one day, someone invited me to give a talk to a group of women and BAM! The goal was achieved.

Achieving the goal didn’t feel so nice…

As a result of that talk, a physical group filled up in less than a week, in Mombasa. I didn’t have to market or even do follow ups. People just connected with the topic, registered and we started on time.

This achievement meant that I had nothing more to do. The main reason why I was stuck was because this is a goal I had set over and over again. I had tried many ways to achieve it, with little or no success.

Incidentally, this wasn’t the first time I experienced the negative effects of goal achievement. The difference is that this time, I was ready to explore why I slid backwards after achieving a goal.

Thank God for my colleagues in the mastermind because they got me out of the funk I was in very fast! By the end of that hot seat session, I had identified what was causing the funk and mapped the way forward.

This experience made me curious about what happens when you achieve your big goals. So I dug deeper, explored the negative effects of goal achievement, and narrowed down to these five.

5 negative effects of goal achievement you need to know

1. Getting stuck

Well, this one is quite obvious for me because I was stuck for a few weeks before my mastermind meeting. It’s easy to get so fixated on goal achievement that you forget there’s life after you achieve the goal.

And this also happens when people achieve goals like get a new job, lose weight, or even getting married.

The problem with getting stuck is that it’s easy to self-sabotage and undo the progress you’ve made. It’s also possible to fall into habits that are detrimental to your continued growth and success.

2. Self-doubt

I remember doubting my ability to replicate this achievement. In fact, I blurted this out during the hot seat session and said, “I’m afraid  this is a one-off achievement. What if I can’t fill up the next group?”

Self-doubt is common among high achievers and I’ve helped my clients overcome it. It just felt off when it was me feeling and voicing it!

After you set a goal, one of two things will happen: you will achieve the goal, or you won’t. While you can guess the potential obstacles, you have no way of knowing how the process will unfold.

Achieving a major goal is exciting and then comes the crash. Doubts, negative self-talk, and the all too familiar impostor syndrome kick in. If you’re not careful, these will hamper your ability to move on to bigger and better goals.

3. Fear

Some achievements come with a lot of publicity and a thrust into a lifestyle that you hadn’t expected. I’m very familiar with the fear that accompanies this!

I’m very publicity averse and have avoided being all out there physically. It’s much easier to hide behind the computer and internet or to hang out in places where I feel at home.

Accepting to give the talk last month was an eye opener in many ways. For one, I had to do a professional photo shoot for the e-flyer. That alone was a major step out of my comfort zone.

Secondly, the publicity for the event went viral fast and far. I definitely wasn’t prepared for the resulting limelight.

Thirdly, actually giving the talk meant being in front of people I didn’t know. Two of my friends attended to provide moral support, but the rest of the crowd was made up of strangers. I had no way of knowing how they would react to me.

Finally, when people started signing up for the coaching group, I experienced a level of fear that I haven’t had since 2010 when I apprenticed as a personal development trainer.

It also didn’t help that I had never hosted a physical group coaching program. Again, I was more comfortable hosting groups online so this one felt way off my usual MO.

When you achieve your big goal, you’ll not be the same person as you were when you started working on it. Fear of change is a potential threat in this case.

The journey towards your goal will change you in more ways than you can imagine. It pays to identify what others went through when working on similar goals and prepare for these changes as much as you can.

4. Depression

While I haven’t experienced this, apparently post-achievement depression is a big challenge for high-achievers. The sense of elation that comes with goal achievement is often accompanied by a crash or an empty feeling.

This is more likely when you’ve been working on a life-long goal that you had attached a lot of meaning to. Once you achieve it, it feels as if there’s nothing else for you to do.

When you achieve the goal, you may also realize that you spent way to much time, energy and focus on the goal…at the expense of your life.

There are 3 things you can do to avoid post-achievement depression:

  1. Build in celebrations as you work on your goal. These will help you enjoy the journey instead of waiting to enjoy reaching the destination.
  2. Be your own biggest cheerleader. This will help you overcome the need for external validation as you work on your goal and after you achieve it.
  3. Prepare for the next project when you’re 75% done with the current goal. You can take a short break to celebrate after achieving your goal. But get started on the next goal as soon as you can. The longer you take in between goals, the harder it is to get back on track.

5. Arrival fallacy

This was a term coined by positive psychology expert Tal Ben-Shahar. Arrival fallacy refers to the fact that as you work on a goal, you come to expect that you’ll achieve it.

You get caught up in unrealistic expectations and brainwash yourself to expect perfection – once you achieve the goal.

Unfortunately, achievement doesn’t always match the expected perfection. As a result, you find yourself in a loop of constantly raising the bar on your goals as you seek happiness and fulfilment.

There’s also the potential to increase your stress as you work harder and take on more responsibilities due to the raised goals and expectations.

The solution once again is to appreciate and enjoy the journey. Identify the reasons why you want to achieve this goal and commit to creating positive and empowering habits as you work on the goal.

In this way, achieving a goal becomes an experience in your life instead of turning it into an end in itself.

Congratulations, you achieved your goal! Then what?

Ideally, you’d want to stop, celebrate achieving your goal, evaluate how you got there, and create new goals or update current ones.

That works for some people. Others simply move forward without taking time to pause in between goals.

And then there are those who focus so much on the goal that there’s nothing else to do after achieving it. This group has a hard time recovering if the goal achievement came unexpectedly.

How has it been for you? Have you experienced any negative effects of goal achievement in your life, career or business? Share with us in the comments.

(Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash)

Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo is a Life and Business Coach at Biashara 360. She's an avid blogger and also oversees our content creation. This ensures that we give our readers quality and well researched information and tips.

    2 replies to "Negative Effects of Goal Achievement You Need to Know"

    • Dani Ticktin Koplik

      Interesting piece, thank you. Need some help, though, reconciling the end point about pausing between goals and the suggestion at the beginning that one should start working on a new goal when only 75% finished with the old one. Studying neuroleadership, expectations, emotional regulation, etc, and this would be so helpful. Thank you!

      • Caroline Gikonyo

        Hey Dani. The aim is to start the preps for your next goal when you’re 75% done with the current one. Then you take a break when you clear your current goal before jumping fully onto the new one. The break is important because it gives you time to celebrate and reflect on the achievement. I can see there’s some editing needed in the way I had phrased it so I’ll get onto that immediately. Thanks for your feedback and all the best with your studies.

Please share your Comments below