Progress, Not Perfection: The Impact of Missing Goals and How to Drive Long-Term Success

**Excerpt:** Missed goals can lead to a sense of failure, a response known as the 'negative lumping effect'. However, it shouldn't eclipse the real progress made. Goals are markers, but tangible progress is the true victory. Keep striving and appreciating your journey.

Progress, Not Perfection: The Impact of Missing Goals and How to Drive Long-Term Success
Photo by Quino Al / Unsplash


In our entrepreneurial journey, we often encounter various challenges. One common, yet significant challenge is narrowly missing a set goal. It can be a disappointing experience that weighs heavily on our morale. But today, I want to help reframe this perspective and motivate you to see the silver lining in this situation.

The Negative Lumping Effect: A Real Psychological Phenomenon

In one particular year, I set an ambitious goal for GANDT Ventures: to increase sales by 35%. It was an ambitious target, yet I had every confidence in our ability to achieve it. However, as the year came to a close, we'd achieved an increase of 28%. Instead of feeling victorious about this substantial achievement, I found myself grappling with a sense of disappointment. This reaction left me questioning, why?

A study in Psychological Science identified this reaction as the 'negative lumping effect'. When progress, no matter how considerable, doesn't match our expectations, we tend to view it as a total failure. This phenomenon is quite common, affecting many of us across various aspects of our lives. Be it an ambitious savings goal or a specific weight loss target, just missing the mark often feels equivalent to failure, despite the evident progress.

Rethinking Progress and Success

This experience with the negative lumping effect prompted me to rethink how we perceive success. It's important to remember, just because you didn't meet your exact target, it doesn't mean you've failed. Yes, I aimed for a 35% sales increase and achieved 28%, but wasn't that a significant growth for GANDT Ventures? Similarly, if you set out to lose 10 pounds and managed to shed 8, you've made substantial progress towards your goal.

Evaluating Your Journey: Look Forward, Look Back

Overcoming the negative lumping effect is largely about perspective. Of course, it's essential to look ahead to your goals, which act as roadmaps, shaping our strategies and driving our daily activities. Goals are vital; they push us to strive and achieve more.

However, it's just as important to reflect on your journey and appreciate how far you've come, especially when you don't quite reach your targets. If you aimed to make a significant positive impact and you managed to do so, even if it wasn't to the full extent you desired, you should take pride in that accomplishment.


Through my own experience, I've realized that allowing a missed goal to overshadow the substantial progress made can be a roadblock to success. Goals are indeed critical as they help us track our progress and make necessary strategy adjustments, but they shouldn't diminish the value of the tangible progress made.

Missing a target isn't a catastrophic failure; it's an opportunity to learn, improve, and continue moving forward. I've learned to celebrate my achievements, no matter how small they might seem compared to my goals, and use them to fuel my motivation to keep striving. Ultimately, it's not just about the milestones we set for ourselves – it's about the journey and the progress made along the way. That's what truly counts.