How Overcompensating Can Sabotage Your Goals

posted by Andrea | 04/30/2018

We’re officially one third of the way through the calendar year — can you believe it!

I know there’s lots of talk about goals in January, but I like to keep the discussion going all year long as there’s no way any of us will meet any of our long-term goals without consistently revisiting them throughout the year.

I think through, talk about, and re-evaluate my goals very regularly, and when it comes to actually reaching a goal, there is one common thing I see over and over and over again (in my own life and when helping others) that hinders, even sabotages, progress…


I woke up 20 minutes early to get stuff done this morning, so I’ll watch a 2 hour movie tonight (instead of doing whatever it was you were supposed to be doing, or simply getting to bed on time).

I purged one bag of clothing from my closet, or a few items from my kitchen cabinets, so it won’t be a big deal if I buy a few new items.

I ate a salad for lunch, so I’ll have that double bacon burger with loaded fries and the extra-large slice of cheesecake for dinner.

I quit the committee that was taking up so much of my time, so I should have plenty of time to join these 2 smaller groups instead.

We always buy used clothing, toys, etc. so we’re splurging on a brand new car or a big fancy vacation.

I did my 15 minutes of decluttering, so I’ll just let those dishes or that pile of papers sit until tomorrow.

I didn’t eat a big dinner, so I’ll skip my exercise today.

I saved money by packing my own lunch last week, so I’m going on a shopping spree this weekend.

I walked a few extra laps today, so I deserve an extra snack.


Whether your goals are for your schedule, your home, your finances, your health, or anything else, the tendency to overcompensate is SO easy to do… and it can really sabotage your goals, often without even realizing it.

When we overcompensate, we overestimate the amount of progress we’ve made towards our goals, and underestimate the negative consequences of any actions or decisions that pull us further from our goal.

Using the examples I listed above, we can clearly see this take shape.

Waking up 20 minutes early is a great start to help you increase your productivity, but not if you’re going to throw away 2 hours in the evening watching TV.

Purging one bag of clothing is fabulous start towards decluttering your home, but not if you go out and buy more again the next week.

Eating a salad for lunch is fantastic start to losing weight or making healthier choices, but not if you eat twice as many calories as you normally would for dinner.

Buying used is a perfect start towards increasing your savings and bettering your financial state, but not if you turn right around and blow the money you saved without much thought.

Now, I want to make it VERY CLEAR that none of these choices are necessarily BAD or WRONG in and of themselves. In fact, I see nothing wrong with watching Netflix at night, buying cute clothing, eating a double cheeseburger and a huge slice of cheesecake, or even letting the dishes sit for the night.

If I’m really honest, I’ve done them all myself on occasion!


If your goal is to be more productive, watching TV for 2 hours every evening will not help you in any way.

If your goal is to declutter your home, continually buying more stuff every time you purge will make the situation worse.

If your goal is to lose weight or get healthier, I’m certain the double cheeseburger and cheesecake will not get you there.

And if your goal is to improve your finances, buying a new vehicle (or even a new-to-you-vehicle) might not be the best choice right now.


You get the idea… right!

Overcompensating is a huge reason we fail to reach our goals — and unfortunately, it’s usually something we do without even realizing it.

I have no quick-fixes for overcompensation… except to continually think through and revisit your goals on a very regular basis (maybe even daily for a while).

If you aren’t reaching your goals as quickly as you had hoped, stop, sit down, and think through different ways you might be unknowingly overcompensating and thus holding yourself back.

You might just be surprised what you find!

Do you have any examples of failing to hit one of your goals because you overcompensated?

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Filed under: WorkTime ManagementGoals

Leave a comment


  1. mara


    Great post, thank you!


  2. Deb


    SOOOO true. I will “save” $5 by gettting something we need on clearance, then spend the $5 at Starbucks negating the savings.

    I used to do this more with diet and exercise, until I actually got on My Fitness Pal and the treadmill and realized that I could walk FOREVER and still not burn off the calories I was eating.

    It is very nice when it does work out though and you can see God’s hand at work, like when you save money somewhere or avoid an expense somehow and then need that exact amount or close to it for another unexpected expense. I love it when that happens!


    Andrea Reply:

    yes, it is fun to see when saving money in one area proves helpful for an unexpected expense later on!


  3. Bridget


    Have you ever read Gretchen Rubin? She has several books. One is Better than Before about making and changing habits. One of the things she talks about is loopholes that we use to make exceptions. I think recognizing them is a step in avoiding them.


    Andrea Reply:

    I’ve heard (over and over again) that I need to read her books. But no, I haven’t read them yet!


  4. Evie


    Exactly right. I call it letting myself off the hook. Not a good idea, but all too often will power is nowhere to be found… I try to be aware, in any case, and often speak sternly to myself. “No letting yourself off the hook this time!”


    Andrea Reply:

    that’s a good way to put it — letting yourself off the hook!