What Reaching a Goal Really Looks Like

You know, it strikes me as curious, and sometimes funny, when self-help articles talk about “reaching your dreams,” how the photo that goes along with it is usually from the beach. Something like this:

photo by thephotographymuse

With silhouettes and water, or maybe someone climbing to a mountain’s peak.

I understand the symbolism, I really do, but I can’t help but think the only way reaching my goal looks like a beach vacation is if my actual goal was a beach vacation.

So in the interest of full disclosure, since we’ve been talking about finding compelling goals, I thought I would look for other ways to illustrate how reaching a goal can really look.

For me, reaching my goal usually looks like stuff piled on my desk because I’ve been spending time working at the computer, and I still have to do the dishes.

Sometimes reaching a goal looks like:

Willing your heart and mind to keep going in a half marathon when your legs are ready to give up on you.
Read more about Emily’s race at Remodeling This Life.

Sometimes it looks like gradually letting your child go out into the world, when you send her out in a backpack that’s so much bigger than she is. Photo by Megan at SortaCrunchy. I’ve been reading her blog for ages.

Sometimes when you reach your goal, you realize that what you really want is something completely different. Why Jules from Pancakes and French Fries decided to quit practicing as an attorney.

Sometimes you learn that reaching the goal means your heart is going to ache, and possibly even be broken. Jamie from Steady Mom understands how that feels.

Sometimes reaching a goal means making yourself vulnerable so you can speak to the hearts of other women.

I’m looking forward to reading the book Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily Freeman from Chatting at the Sky.

What does reaching your goal really look like?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. This is a great post, Rachel! If I reach a goal it usually looks like me jumping around. Especially when I feel good about what I’ve accomplished, I feel excited and aroused. Boy, do I love that feeling!
    Maaike Quinn @ A Gorgeous Life´s last post…The Perfection Paradox Part II Or- Why a Perfect Person Certainly Is Not a Perfectionist

  2. Beautiful post! My husband and I sat up for an hour 2 nights ago talking about our goals and writing them down. One of them will look like a nice “aduana argentina” stamp on our passports! I want to finally introduce him to my extended family in Argentina :-)
    Mariana´s last post…My painted hutch revealed

  3. Wow, this is completely challenging. As I read, I realize that I can’t remember the last time I reached a big goal! College graduation, maybe? Of course, I sometimes attain small goals, but as a mom, it so often seems that as soon as I reach a goal, I start working toward the exact same one again!

    Hmmm, perhaps it’s time to establish some more tangible goals?
    Monica @ In The Whisper´s last post…Again I Say- REJOICE

  4. I’m in tears at reading this, Rachel, and then finding myself included. Thank you, friend.

    I believe the only way to really live is to risk, to dare for something so big it may very well be impossible, to look failure in the face, get scared, but keep looking.

    And hey, a beach vacation thrown in every once in a while sounds good too. ;)

    steadymom´s last post…Once a Month Cleaning

  5. Seeing my book on display at Barnes & Noble…

    In the shorter term, being able to manage our money on one income in a few months when I start work full time as a stay at home mom. I guess that goal looks like enough left over to enjoy a good dinner out.
    Kait Palmer´s last post…Making Muffins on a Busy Morning

  6. Funny you write about this today. We paid the last of our CC debt this morning and all that happenes was immediately getting my gears turning about our next goal- a down payment for a house.

  7. I wish I knew. My goals never play out as I intend. Many times, I don’t realize they’ve been “reached” until later.

    Thank you for sharing Emily’s video. I was in tears watching it because she described me everyday. Going to bed thinking of all the things I could’ve done better. Who lives like that? Please tell me I’m not alone. Well, Emily did. And i look forward to reading her book and sharing it with the world when it comes out. So thank you for sharing that here. :)

  8. This post (like your earlier post on finding compelling goals) really resonated with me. If I had a photograph to represent me reaching my goals (and hopes and dreams), it would be one of me asleep in an armchair with a coffee cup in hand and my MacBook on my lap.

    Years ago, we went through a brief spell of fertility issues. It seemed like our son was going to be our only child. How we longed to have a big family, and how hard we worked to make our goals a reality! Now there are three, which is amazing . . . but also exhausting. Never before have I measured my free time in minutes (sometimes nanoseconds), rather than days or hours.

    The same holds true of my part-time job. I had always wanted to use my law degree in a way that enabled me to spend the vast majority of time with my children. By some miracle, I found that very job — and it provides me with an ocean of sanity in my crazy weeks.

    But . . . again . . . reaching that particular goal has left me spent! Certainly not like someone jumping up and down on a beach.

    Nihara’s last blog post . . . http://www.doing-too-much.com/2011/04/calculating-value-of-your-time.html

  9. Thank you so much for including me. You’re amazing. :)

    You know what my current challenge is? Coming up with new goals. I feel like I’m stagnant lately, and all because I met my goals a few years ago. Now, with nothing really concrete, I am a bit lost, like a little cork bobbing in the ocean.
    Jules´s last post…The Toy Room- Before

  10. So glad you asked. Here’s what reaching my goal looked like… http://wisdomofthemoon.blogspot.com/2010/09/warrior-dash.html

    Oh, and then there’s this… http://wisdomofthemoon.blogspot.com/2010/05/six-impossible-things.html
    Wendy´s last post…Raised Beds- A Long Time Coming

  11. Thank you so much for that video! It really reminds me of the constant struggle I seem to have with how to deal with things in my private life while I’m in public. It inspired me to blog about it today. Why as Christian women do we not feel we can share our struggles with one another? I am challenging myself to share something on Friday via my blog and I hope others will join me. Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. My “goal accomplished” was a big ACCOUNT CLOSED in red type on my computer monitor, when I checked our car financing website after we paid it off a year early. YYYYYYYYYYYYEAH! I should have saved a screen shot.

    I’m with some of the others – in search of a new meaningful goal just for me. At the moment, I’m working on a crafting project of Christmas decorations made over the course of an entire year, and it seems that I’m learning to sew and do some embroidery stitches in the process.

  13. Lately, I’ve been watching goals of mine being completed that I didn’t even know I had! I got the very first job I applied to after graduating from college and we have the most beautiful apartment lined up for when our current lease is over.

    I realize that my goals are not lofty: I want a quiet, simple life and I want to be happy and loved. Check on the latter, and working on the former.

    Sometimes I feel that my life is less about what I want it to be and more about what God hands me. Occasionally, He hands me the really tough ones which we’re also dealing with right now (in the form of infertility), but I can’t help but see all the blessings he’s handing us as well.
    Jennie´s last post…How to Implement Internet-Free Time

  14. right now I’m preparing to take time to ‘be still’ to really focus in and define exactly what my goals really are…(and *should* be) :)
    heidi @ wonder woman wannabe´s last post…Interview with a Blogger – Becky of Farmgirl Paints

  15. Rachel I absolutely love your blog — The Nester and I are always so excited when you have a new post. I’m giddy and ridiculous to see your link to my video. And this post? Is so beautifully, wonderfully true. Favorite line? “The only way reaching my goal looks like a beach vacation is if my actual goal was a beach vacation.” Yes! So true.

    and thanks for totally making my day.
    emily freeman´s last post…love in the morning two

  16. Reaching a goal, for me, is realizing the cycle I’ve wanted to break, handed down and long-entrenched in my family…..I. Have. Done. NONE of my children know what it’s like to be raised by an alcoholic.
    Marilyn´s last post…Swimming in New Waters

    • Marilyn,
      This is AWESOME! WHat a huge accomoplishment and what a gift to give to your children and grandchildren!
      My hubby and I got married very young and cmae from messed up homes. Our goal, we jokingly say (because of the pain behind it) is that our home was going to be one step less dysfunctional than the ones we grew up in. And we hoped our kids would be able to go one step further. By God’s grace we have been able to provide a decent home for our children, who are now all about grown!
      Thanks for sharing!
      Living the Balanced Life´s last post…13 ways to stay stressed out

      • I wasn’t sure anyone would get how serious I was with saying that was my goal. I’m so glad you did! And yes, it’s was totally by God’s grace, not just that they don’t have firsthand knowledge of what it’s like, but that they have seen what it is to allow God to heal relationships and enable us to walk lovingly and compassionately beside an aging parent who has a long history. God’s grace is beyond all we ask and imagine, for sure!
        Marilyn´s last post…Swimming in New Waters

    • Oh Marilyn, this touches me so! I almost can’t think of any more important goal. And not an easy one to reach. Bless you for doing it.
      Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…My First GAPS Travel Adventure

  17. Goals are a lot simpler these days…being able to change Dave’s oxygen tank in second seconds or less, making time for a thirty minute walk with the dogs, having energy at the end of the day to fix a nutritious meals. I’m a morning person and that last one is really difficult for me.
    Remembering God’s grace is sufficient and He’ll help us through this journey.
    Sandra´s last post…Pink Moon- Green Shawl

  18. Rachel, I had a big lump in my throat as I read this. I am another giddy Emily finding myself in this post. I cannot wait to read Grace for the Good Girl too.

    Thank you!

  19. I have seen Emily’s video and it so resonates with me, cannot wait to read it! I will have to go back and visit the others! I would love to run and jump at the beach, lol!
    My goal right now, is to continue to seek what God’s will for me is. I am being called to something more, but it seems to be in a haze, and not quite clear yet. Maybe a book, maybe speaking, maybe coaching. So, can’t quite say what it would look like. But, it would feel peaceful, in my soul.
    Thanks for sharing these Rachel!
    Living the Balanced Life´s last post…Stop the Work-Spend-Accumulate Cycle

  20. Rachel! I’m going to cry.

    What a surprise to see my sweet girl headed down the sidewalk in her backpack. Oh my GOODNESS, that was such a HUGE transition for us. I thought I might die, I was so scared and unsure. She took it all in stride, though. And yes, definitely a goal reached, growing her towards independence in that way.

    Thank you for the AMAZING reminder that leaping through the sands of a beach is USUALLY not the way a goal fleshes itself out.

    Your posts from Italy remind me of the gentle truth of living out dreams. So thank you (again) (lots) for that.

    Megan at SortaCrunchy´s last post…I can only HOPE to be

  21. I’m wondering….is it okay to not know what it looks like??

    • Can I pipe up here?
      Yes, I think so, Shana. I most definitely think there are goals we reach that we didn’t fully know we were striving for until it’s right upon us and we recognize “that’s what I was hoping for!” I think some of our deepest desires can lay hidden from us and, without our realizing it, we are working toward them.
      Marilyn´s last post…Swimming in New Waters

  22. This is such a great post…thank you for sharing real, encouraging links…
    Michelle @ Give a Girl a Fig´s last post…Wednesday in the Word

  23. Beautiful, and so true! So often I’m afraid to set goals because I’m afraid of what might happen. This post and all the posts you’ve linked to here are very encouraging and motivating for me. Thank you!
    Emily Joyce´s last post…Find Your Style Personality Giveaway!

  24. Awesome post… really took my breathe away… Speaking for myself, stopping to figure out a goal is half way to reaching it. Reaching a goal is just a “sigh moment” after all the heart we throw into getting to the goal it really is the journey that counts and keeps us reaching for more goals… You are such inspiration – thank-you.

  25. This certainly hit the spot for me, especially the last sentence..felt a jerk inside(knowing exactly what you mean)!
    I’m on the cusp of starting my own business, research development, I think its called. Breaking out of the mould of what has been and peeking out of the crack to what may come…its scary!
    Do I have what it takes?
    Can I push through the barrier of doubt?
    Will it work?
    The only answer is …GOD knows!
    I know he does..so I will keep pushing along.
    Any advice?

    Thanks for the thought provoking morning. x
    Tracy´s last post…SUMMER SALE

  26. What a heartfelt and interesting post. I am most appreciative when my perspective is challenged and I get to look at something in a completely new way. Thank you for this.

  27. I have a picture of myself climbing a small tower in a wildlife refuge. Until just now, I never thought about it before. However, I think that’s my reaching a goal photo. The reason is that when my husband took that picture, I had just walked a half mile, then climbed the tower to the top. No big deal? Well, when you are over 60, have lost over 100lbs after weight loss surgery, had an unexpected but necessary hysterectomy, then 6 weeks later had double knee replacement surgery and three months of rehab, that walk and climb was sweet victory. Right now I’m recovering from a nasty bout of cellulitis and a some kind of pulled muscle in my knee. I’ve been out of commission for weeks now and am tired of laying around. I liked this post a lot. I have so much I want to do and resting my leg is NOT one of them!

    Larraine´s last post…Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

  28. For me right now reaching my goals looks like facing and leading the tough conversations. Also like actually taking the plunge and really buying a house after years of waiting (scary!!!) and it looks like not being embarrassed to try something new even when I suck at it.
    AnnaMarie´s last post…Artist in Residence

  29. A lovely post. I’m a newcomer to your blog.
    I’ve been wondering around for a while (emotionally not physically) and so I’ve not had a goal for a long time. I think my goal is to enjoy the moment. It’s such a fad to say it but it’s ridiculously hard to do. I’m either living in past pain or in future anxiety!
    I hit a crossroads with my own blog recently and quit it just like that. And of course I miss it. So I bought your e-book and it’s been wonderful. I feel energerised and I feel there is a comeback in me yet!
    Thank you.

  30. What a fantastic post. My goal currently looks like a freshly painted apartment filled with things and only things that I truly love and are meant for ME. I’ve went through the last 6 years of my life bouncing from relationship to relationship and am finally ready to be strong, independent, and on my own. It looks like my laying in a gorgeous chaise lounge, sipping tea and reading a book– happy and completely content to be without a man.

    Perhaps a bit sappy, I know. But the best visualization I’ve got :)
    Tara´s last post…Headin up North!

  31. My fiance’ and I work with the teenagers at our church. My biggest “reaching my goal” looks like one of our kids choosing to go to a youth rally over the drag strip with his friends, a girl asking me if she can be the one to lead her friend to Christ, a boy excited to tell me what he got from his devotions this week, a said memory verse, a baptismal service…. I’m tearing up just thinking about all the little milestones of reached goals I’ve had over the last year :)
    Becky´s last post…Thankful Thursday – Good Friends &amp Family

  32. This couldn’t have come at a better time. I’ve been sitting with a goal for a few months now, and for maybe the first time in my life, I’m afraid to go for it. I’m afraid it will end up looking like “all the other failures” that I remind myself of constantly. I was never afraid of taking a risk before, but I also did a lot of leaping-before-looking. Maybe there’s room for risk and caution to live side by side? Lots for me to chew on here. Thank you, Rachel.
    Maggie @ Maggie’s Nest´s last post…My First GAPS Travel Adventure

  33. For me it was not being afraid to take a risk. I find that fear of the risk holds many people back from persuing a dream or a goal. I had a goal of being able to earn some extra money for our family by taking portraits. The day I got my first check was a big deal…though it was small amounts of money! I felt so proud and knew I could keep going, learning, and making myself more marketable….essentially adding more goals!
    Kim C.´s last post…Sweet Shot Tuesday

  34. It really depends, which one are we talking about? I have several and they’re broken down by category. I’m dubbing this the year of the purge.

    I found your blog completely randomly on google (searching for an iced coffee recipe). I must say, you have inspired me to take a look at all the crap I’ve got. I have way to much and need to downsize. Most of my clothes I don’t wear and can be given away. I have more make-up than I can wave a brush at, and I have craft projects that have been sitting on the back burner for years.

    My ultimate goal is to have mostly no clutter and have a decent living area. I have what I’m planning to do, broken up by months into small steps.

    Thank you for writing a wonderful blog. :)

  35. Thanks for the photo of your desk. I love that it’s a little messy. Thanks for the reminder of what it looks like to reach a goal – it’s not always glamorous, but it is beautiful. And thanks for the reminder of the importance of having attainable goals (which are different from desires). It’s always good to consider, What is really important? Which brings me back to your messy desk. It encourages me, because your beautiful and simple and organized blog is a wonderful resource, but life isn’t always simple and it’s okay to have a messy desk. (At least that’s my experience and what I have to remind myself.)

  36. Not only do I totally agree with you about the beach photos and goal completion, but I also constantly see beach pictures used to represent peace and happiness. It drives me mad. While I do love the beach, I would not, for anything, want to live on the water. My dream vacation doesn’t even involve a beach. My husband and I actually want to retire somewhere much colder than Florida. Sometimes, I really hate that there seems to be an understanding that we should all crave life on the beach. I certainly don’t.

    My little rant aside, great post. I think you make an excellent point (as always).

  37. So true and the pictures and links help solidify it all the more. That messy desk really touched my heart as I look at mine!
    Bonita´s last post…Ebooks- e-books- eBooks

  38. Love this post, another one of your great posts that makes me pause, and think. I write my goals out frequently, but to actually picture them is a little different. Mine? A size ten tag off some jeans (down 5 sizes – almost there!). A photo of a book, with our son’s hands holding it, reading to me(reading has been a long process for him, but he’ll get it). My laptop, hands typing, with notebook and pens nearby (write every day). A check, on its way to be deposited at the bank (income from my writing). A scene at the park, the kids playing nearby, a picnic table set with food (enjoying time with family). These are my key goals, and I love actually “visualizing” them. Thank you!
    MAUREEN´s last post…Easter Lambs

  39. One of my biggest goals was holding my little baby girl in my arms after a planned home birth. I’ve since had another one at home and achieving such a goal is just amazing.

  40. Thank you for this. I often have a hard time visualizing goals at all. It’s nice to be reminded that they’re my goals and should look like mine and not anyone else’s!
    Stephanie´s last post…Peep Cake- A Tutorial

  41. Curiosity getting the better of me…I can’t make out what that orange thing on your desk is. It caught my attention and now I’m really curious :)

  42. Ah, this post made me tear up. Several times in the last few years, I’ve gotten just what I wanted to find it was a lot harder to live with than I expected it to be.

    The post is also a reminder to stop and celebrate when meeting a goal does go well. It’s easy, somehow, to take those moments for granted and beat myself up for the others.
    Sally JPA´s last post…Tilth Giveaway!- Food Scale

  43. ha! I will never look at those beach “achievement” photos the same way again. You’re so right, and I’ve never set a goal to get to the beach.

    I love that you incorporated Emily, Emily, and Megan into this post – I think the three of them are just absolutely fabulous. And they show what achievement is truly about. Thanks for this!

    Katie at makingthishome.com´s last post…Tire House Tour – The Backside

  44. Such a thoughtful post, excellent as usual. Made me think “Be careful what you wish for”. I will revise my goals and make sure they are aligned to my wants and needs of today. Thank you for this!
    Ivonne Loving´s last post…Good Friday

  45. Rachel, this post has been percolating in my head for a couple of days now and it got me thinking about some of the goals that have fallen to the backburner in recent months and years (like my goal to conquer my fear of highway driving).

    Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: sometimes, it’s okay to postpone your goals. What do you think?
    Nihara´s last post…When Its Okay to Postpone Your Goals

  46. This post could not have come at a better time. I rarely comment on your blog, but I read every post you put up. This one was bookmarked in my “inspiration” folder. I have been working a lot on my goals lately, but the idea of “visualizing” what my goals actually *look* like has been amazing! I go a lot by “feeling” and visualizing how my goals ought to feel has helped me make my goals clearer – I was really struggling with them all being too vague and hard to reach and how would I ever know I’d accomplished something? As a SAHM, I seem to have so little accomplishment, but this post has really helped me in my process to know what my goals should be and when I know I’ve accomplished them. Thank you for continuing to write while you’re in Italy!

  47. Funny how just this week as I have been thinking about getting back into things after a couple of months off about goals… the idea that keeps coming back to me is that I am living the dream, so my goal looks pretty much like my life – messy dogs, long runs, fruit trees that need pruning, friends who drop in for cups of tea… not sure how I can put that in a photo though :)
    angelvalerie´s last post…living in the past…

  48. I set several goals for myself this year, to be hopefully accomplished by year’s end. They range from paying off one of my credit cards in full (and due to happy chance I may actually make my last credit card payment on my second and last card in December this year, paying off both instead of just one), sewing 12 distinctly different things, losing some extra pounds, and finding a better source of income. I’m actually pretty sure I will manage to get about 2/3 of them finished, and I’m happy with that.

    What does it look like? It looks like me grinning ear to ear sending a text out to those who care saying hey! I crossed one more off of the list! :D
    Debra´s last post…30DDC Day 5

  49. Rachel,

    I know I do not comment often, but you are such an inspiration to me.

    Here’s what reaching a goal is like for me:

    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith´s last post…First Grade Curriculum for Home Schooling

  50. This one’s easy!

    My goal is seeing the scale say 150!!