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Setting goals is an essential part of personal and professional development. However, not all goals are created equal, and understanding what is attainable and what is not is crucial for success. While it’s essential to dream big and aim high, setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. In this article, we will explore the art of distinguishing between attainable and unattainable goals and offer practical guidance on how to strike the right balance.

  1. Define Your Values and Priorities

Before diving into goal-setting, it’s important to understand what truly matters to you. What are your values, and what are your long-term priorities? Aligning your goals with your core values will help you focus on what is most meaningful and attainable for you personally.

  1. Assess Your Resources

Realistic goal-setting requires an honest evaluation of your available resources, including time, money, skills, and support. Be realistic about what you can allocate to your goals, as overextending yourself can lead to burnout and failure.

  1. Break Down the Goal

Large, daunting goals can seem unattainable when viewed as a whole. Break down your goal into smaller, manageable steps or milestones. This allows you to track progress and maintain motivation as you work towards your ultimate objective.

  1. Prioritize Goals

Not all goals are created equal. Prioritization is key to distinguishing between attainable and unattainable goals. Ask yourself: Is this goal aligned with my values and priorities? Can I realistically dedicate the necessary resources to achieve it? Prioritizing goals will help you allocate your energy and effort more effectively.

  1. Set SMART Goals

Adopt the SMART criteria for goal-setting: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. A SMART goal is clear and concrete, making it easier to determine whether it is attainable. For example, “I will lose 10 pounds in three months by exercising three times a week” is more attainable than a vague goal like “I want to lose weight.”

  1. Seek Feedback and Guidance

Don’t hesitate to seek advice and feedback from trusted friends, mentors, or professionals when evaluating the attainability of your goals. They can provide valuable insights and help you adjust your expectations if necessary.

  1. Assess Your Comfort Zone

Stepping out of your comfort zone is essential for growth, but pushing too far beyond it can set you up for failure. Consider your tolerance for risk and discomfort when setting goals. Gradual, manageable steps outside your comfort zone are more likely to be attainable.

  1. Be Realistic About Timeframes

Consider the time required to achieve your goal. Setting unrealistic deadlines can lead to frustration and disappointment. Assess how long it will realistically take to reach your goal, considering your resources and the complexity of the task.

  1. Embrace Failure as a Learning Opportunity

Failure is a natural part of pursuing goals. Instead of viewing it as a sign of unattainability, see it as an opportunity to learn, adapt, and grow. Adjust your approach based on what you’ve learned and continue to pursue your goal with renewed determination.

  1. Be Flexible

Life is unpredictable, and circumstances can change. Be open to adjusting your goals when necessary. Flexibility is a valuable skill when determining what is attainable and what is not.


Setting attainable goals is a delicate balance between ambition and realism. By aligning your goals with your values, assessing your resources, breaking down goals into manageable steps, and applying the SMART criteria, you can distinguish between attainable and unattainable objectives. Remember that it’s okay to dream big, but success often comes from a combination of ambition and practicality. As you embark on your journey of goal-setting, keep these principles in mind to increase your chances of success while staying true to your values and priorities.


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