15 Unrealistic Goals Examples and How to Avoid Setting Them

One of the greatest hurdles in life is to avoid setting unrealistic goals. We are often our own worst enemies when it comes to this.

We may set goals beyond our capabilities and then get disappointed when we don’t reach them. This can lead to a cesspool of negative thoughts.

To break out of this, you need to start changing your mindset for the better. Instead of jumping straight to pursuing your dreams, pay more attention to what you can realistically accomplish with your given resources.

In this article, you’ll find unrealistic goals examples, what unrealistic goals are, and how to avoid setting them in the first place.

What Are Unrealistic Goals?

We’ve all been there—you set a goal that you’re super excited about, but then two weeks later, you feel utterly unmotivated and discouraged.

So what went wrong?

It’s possible that you unknowingly set an unrealistic goal. Unrealistic goals are impossible to reach, or at least very unlikely to be achieved.

An unrealistic goal can sap your motivation and passion because you know that the odds of achieving it are so low. They are the type of goals that feel out of reach.

As days go by, it becomes increasingly clear this goal is unattainable. Rather than feeling energized by your efforts, you start feeling drained instead. Your passion begins to fade, and eventually, you give up altogether.

Furthermore, recognize that setting an unrealistic goal is not the same as challenging yourself. A challenging goal requires you to stretch beyond your comfort zone but is still achievable with hard work and dedication.

An unrealistic goal, on the other hand, tends to be farfetched. If you see yourself regularly setting unrealistic goals, it may be time to reassess your goal-setting strategy.

Why Do People Set Unrealistic Goals?

We sometimes set a goal out of reach and beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve it. But why exactly do we do this to ourselves?

There are a few reasons to consider:

  • Naively thinking we can have it all and now.
  • Underestimating the time and effort it will take to reach our goals.
  • Failing to plan ahead and account for potential setbacks.
  • Setting vague goals. Without being clear and specific, it’s tough to know when we’ve truly attained a goal.

While it’s great to have big aspirations, setting achievable goals is key to maintaining motivation and avoiding discouragement.

The next time you set a goal, ask yourself if it’s something you can actually achieve. If the answer is no, it might be time to reconsider your strategy.

15 Unrealistic Goals Examples

It’s essential to avoid setting goals beyond your skill set. Here are 15 examples of unrealistic goals to take a look at:

1. Lose 30 Pounds in a Week

Setting an unrealistic goal, like losing 30 pounds in only one week, will set you up for failure rather than success. It is hard to lose that much weight in a short time frame.

Plus, losing weight too quickly can lead to unhealthy habits and take a toll on your body. Being in a rush isn’t always healthy or sustainable. As they say, slow and steady wins the race.

2. Start a Successful Business Quickly

Perhaps you’re finally motivated to make a drastic career move. You’ve decided to quit your job and start your business venture.

But you know that creating a successful business isn’t a trivial matter. It requires a ton of dedication and time to get the business off the ground. It will take people months or even years to see any tangible results from their business.

3. Get Rich Overnight

You may have heard it over 1000 times already, but I’ll say it again: There is no such thing as getting rich overnight. Anyone telling you otherwise is probably looking to scam you.

The only way to amass wealth is through patience, dedication, and time. No one is guaranteed to become a millionaire in life. So getting rich quickly is unrealistic, and you are better off setting more modest goals.

4. Become an Industry Expert Today

Becoming a well-known expert in an industry would require years of dedicated study and experience, let alone one where you’re starting from scratch.

Even if you are Elon Musk or one of the smartest people in the world, you can’t become an expert in a matter of days. You should set aside those fancy thoughts.

5. Travel to Every City in the World

Some people may be fascinated by the idea of visiting every city in the world. While this could be on your bucket list, it’s nearly impossible to see every city in a short time frame.

There are too many cities and not enough time. Instead, it would make more sense to pick a few places that interest you the most. You will have a much more enriching and enjoyable experience that way.

6. Save $100,000 Each Month

Anyone who has tried to save money knows it isn’t always easy. There are so many tempting ways to spend our hard-earned cash, and it can be tough to resist the urge to splurge on a new shirt or a night out with friends.

savings fund

Trying to save $100,000 every month will likely set you up for disappointment. You’ll have to make a drastic lifestyle change to get anywhere close to this hefty savings goal.

7. Get a Promotion in Four Days

It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re running in circles at your job. You pour your heart and soul into your work, but you seem stuck in the same position with no hope for career advancement.

After all, getting a promotion takes time and effort. It’s not something you can accomplish in less than a week. You may have to take on more responsibilities at work and showcase your true capabilities.

So don’t naively assume your manager or boss will hand you a promotion on a silver platter; it’s unreasonable to think that way.

8. Buy a Lakefront House Tomorrow

It’s the summer and you’ve recently closed on your dream house: a breathtaking lakefront property with a private dock. You can hardly wait to spend your weekend swimming, boating, and fishing.

Just one problem: you hope to buy the house tomorrow.

This unrealistic goal is a daunting task. Even with careful planning and luck, you have a low chance of accomplishing this goal.

Disregarding whether you even have the necessary funds to afford a house, you also may get caught up in a bidding war because lakefront properties are usually in high demand.

9. Go From Zero to 100 Pushups This Week

If you are starting from zero, you probably won’t complete 100 pushups in a row if given a week. While it’s possible to make significant progress if you put in the time, the chances of reaching this goal are improbable.

On the other hand, going from zero to 10 pushups makes a lot more sense. You should aim for a more realistic goal by extending your end date to accomplish the goal.

10. Learn a New Language in a Month

Learning a new language is an incredibly rewarding experience. It can open up new career opportunities, and allow you to communicate with people from different cultures.

But before you get started, it’s important to avoid setting unrealistic goals. Trying to learn a new language in just one month is an ambitious goal.

You may end up feeling frustrated and overwhelmed if you try to take on too much too soon. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, why not start with a more achievable goal?

Set aside half an hour each day to study your chosen language, and gradually increase the amount of time you spend as you start to feel more confident.

11. Run a Marathon This Week

Running a marathon is a huge undertaking. It takes months of training and following a regiment to have a chance of crossing the finish line.

So what would happen if you tried to do it in a week? Would you be able to run 26.2 miles in 7 days? The answer, most likely, is no.

While it’s possible to run long distances in a short period, it’s uncertain whether you would be able to complete a marathon without any prior training.

Not only would you be at risk of injuring yourself, but you would also likely experience extreme fatigue and muscle soreness. In other words, attempting to run a marathon in a week is an unrealistic goal.


12. Find Your Soulmate by Next Month

One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to find a soulmate. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to find love, setting a one-month deadline is unrealistic. It may even set you back in your quest for a relationship.

For one thing, it’s crucial to take your time getting to know someone before you declare them your soulmate. Rushing into things can lead to hasty decisions and regret.

Rather than establishing a difficult goal, try enjoying the dating process and letting things happen naturally.

13. Quit Smoking Overnight

It’s no secret that smoking is bad for your health. Unfortunately, smokers shouldn’t expect to quit smoking overnight. The problem with this approach is that it’s simply not realistic.

Quitting smoking is a slow and gradual process. It takes most smokers several attempts before they can finally kick the habit for good. They would need to maintain consistency with goals, and it’s not something done overnight.

14. Write a Best-Selling Book

Writing and publishing a best-selling book is a huge accomplishment. But if you lack passion for writing, it’s impractical to find the motivation to sit down and write your book.

Even if you decide to hire someone to write for you, don’t naively assume your book will become a best-seller. You’re looking at a deep pool of competition with countless books out in the world.

15. Become a Celebrity This Year

Becoming a celebrity is a tough gig. The path to celebrity status is long and arduous. You can’t lack talent, hard work, or social connections.

There are no shortcuts available. So it’s no surprise that setting this goal is unreal, much less given a year.

Regardless if you have all the talent and dedication in the world, there is no guarantee you’ll make it to the top. If you wish to be a celebrity this year, you might want to reconsider your goal.

How to Avoid Setting Unrealistic Goals

If your goal feels unattainably high, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure before you even start. Here are a few tips to stop setting unrealistic goals.

  1. Think about why you want to achieve this particular goal. What is your motivation? Drill down to the root of why you want to make this change. Once you know your “why,” you can start to figure out what’s realistic.
  2. Use a goal-setting framework. It is a powerful tool to help you identify and set more realistic and concise goals. You’ll be able to focus on things that push you further toward your long-term goals in life. 
  3. Consider baby steps. Break your goal into smaller pieces if it feels completely out of reach. For example, if you want to write a novel in a month, start by aiming for 1,000 words per day. That’s doable, and it’ll still get you to your overall goal eventually.
  4. Build in some flexibility. Life happens and our best-laid plans may go off the rails. If you are too rigid in your thinking, you’re likely to get frustrated and give up when things go awry. Build some wiggle room into your goals so that you can adjust as needed.
  5. Don’t be harsh on yourself. We all have setbacks, and you should remember that we’re only human. As cliche as it may sound, be kind and give yourself a pass sometimes.

Final Thoughts

We all make the mistake of having too high of an expectation for ourselves. We set hopeless goals that don’t match our current abilities.

To achieve excellence in every area, avoid setting unrealistic goals. From extending your timeline to establishing actionable steps, be efficient with your goal setting.

You should know it’s in your best interest to develop reasonable goals within your capabilities. You’ll be doing everything necessary to live to your full potential.

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Rei Shen

Rei is the founder of Success in Depth. Based in Washington, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. He brings years of experience in goal setting to empower readers to reach their aspirations.