Is Goal Shame Holding You Back?

I was shocked by how wrong I was.

I saw a headline recently about not letting Goal Shame keep you from moving forward in 2022. I expected the article to help me understand that everybody experiences Goal Failure and not to let the shame from that keep me from trying again.

And, that made perfect sense in my little brain because almost all of us fail to reach our goals at some point. Research indicates only 8% actually achieve their goals. There’s a lot of Goal Failure to go around. 

I thought this Goal Shame thing would be a good topic for my daily podcast, “Walking is Fitness.” I want people to keep moving forward with their fitness goals even if they have previously failed. Get back up! Keep moving forward! It was going to be ten minutes of encouragement to not let the past permanently sideline your future fitness goals.

Sounded like a great topic…until I clicked the link.

That’s when I learned that I had it all wrong. Goal Shame isn’t looking backward…it’s actually focused forward. Goal Shame is really Goal Embarrassment. In other words, I’m embarrassed about a goal I’m thinking about or already pursuing. I don’t want others to know what I’m doing. That’s what the article meant about Goal Shame. It had nothing to do with past Goal Failure.   

I instantly realized this is actually something struggle with. And, according to the writer of the article I’m not alone. Perhaps you have also feel Goal Shame. 

The issue at hand is that Goal Shame can limit you. Let’s see how this could play out if you are thinking about pursuing the goal of walking 10,000 steps every day for fitness. 


I tried out for soccer during my senior year in high school. I made the team. It didn’t hurt that there were more slots on the team than guys trying out. In other words, everybody made it. I only played a few minutes each game…and then only when the game was securely in hand…one way or the other.

I’ve never been a great athlete. I thought being a skinny kid was to blame, but it really me not believing I could be good and never really gave it the effort it needed. Those internal tapes dominated a lot of my exercise and fitness decisions as an adult. 

How could someone so lacking in athletic skill and experience pursue a big fitness goal like walking 10,000 steps a day? I’ve never looked like an athlete and maybe you feel the same about yourself. That doesn’t mean we can’t pursue fitness, but Goal Shame might actually prevent us from moving forward.


The pursuit of fitness is often solitary and can feel very self-focused. This feeling is particularly acute when there are so many other things competing for our attention and those things involve other people.

When our kids were younger and living at home I felt this very intently. How could I go for a 30 minute bike ride and leave my wife with a house full of needy little people? I felt guilty. Thing is…Ava wanted me to do this. She recognized I was a better version of myself if I had some time alone to exercise.

But, I was never able to shake this feeling and that actually kept me from setting many exercise and fitness goals during that season of life. Those goals felt too self-focused and I felt Goal Shame as a result.

Walking 10,000 steps a day requires about an hour and 40 minutes of walking. For most of us, that means we need to set aside a big chunk of time each day to reach this goal. If that feels too self centered, you might feel Goal Shame and not invest the time needed for fitness.


This is probably the biggest reason for Goal Shame for me. What if I announce a Big Goal and then fall flat on my face? Better to keep my goals quiet so when I fail it won’t be embarrassing.

The problem with this line of thinking is I’m missing out on incredibly valuable accountability when I tell others what I’m doing. I may also be missing out on the encouragement and even wisdom others have to offer.

I might also be limiting my goal because a bigger goal can’t be hidden. For me, Goal Shame is really about the embarrassment I might feel if it’s not going well and I have to explain why. 

Walking 10,000 steps every day is a BIG goal. And, yes, you might not make it every day. But, you won’t ever make it if the fear of failure keeps you from getting started. Don’t let Goal Shame put you on the sidelines before you ever take the field. In some ways, I was a soccer “failure”, but I am SO grateful I took a risk and tried out for the team. Even thought I didn’t play much at all, my teammates gave me “The Spirit Award” at the end of the season because my attitude was always positive and encouraging. It’s an honor I still treasure many decades later.


Do you have a big fitness goal…like walking 10,000 steps every day (or more)? Do you ever feel some embarrassment about it? Are you afraid to tell others what you’re doing? If so, you’re not alone. 

While I still may not be a great athlete, I feel pretty confident about my fitness level these days. That took time. I’m glad I didn’t let Goal Shame keep me from moving forward in this crucial area of health.

I don’t want it to hold you back either. Think BIG! What’s your fitness goal? You won’t get there overnight, but you won’t get there at all if a feeling of Goal Shame is holding you back.


If you’re just getting started and 10,000 steps feels a long way off, that’s OK. Start small with a short 10 minute walk every day. As your fitness capacity grows and you discover this walk is becoming one of the best parts of your day you can gradually walk longer!

My podcast, Walking is Fitness is the perfect way to get started. This podcast is recorded during the first ten-minutes of my early morning walk and you’ll be joining hundreds of people around the world who are using Walking is Fitness as a great way to start their walk every day to reach their fitness goals.

Would you join us?

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