10-Year Retrospective; Or, What fraction of users achieve their goals?

[repeating this from a daily beemail]

This adorableness turned 10 years old the other day:

https://vimeo.com/7452624 (2009 Quantified Self show&tell talk in NYC in which @bee showed off Kibotzer)

Bee mentions in the talk that she had put in 283.5 hours on what would become Beeminder at that point. Tracked by TagTime nee TimePie.

That was still a couple years before we publicly launched. A total of 145 goals had been created – we manually created them all – for friends and family and ourselves.

One of the questions from the audience was “how many people achieve their goals?” and Bee looks at me off-camera and we’re both like “ummm, we don’t know?”

Which is still our answer today! Actually our answer is that the question is all wrong. It’s rare for a goal to be binary (achieved or not) and if it is then arguably StickK works better for it. Also Beeminder can’t actually tell the difference between a goal ending because it was achieved and ending because you gave up. It’s all about the journey with Beeminder, I guess. I think it’s worth Beeminder asking more questions and learning the difference but it obviously hasn’t been a priority so far. Maybe we’ll get to that in the next 10 years?

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My grand goal since 2014 was to become awesome. I didn’t. Instead, I became middle-aged.


I have achieved maybe 1/10 goals I set on Beeminder, 9/10 I eventually gave up on. But those 1/10 were worth it, and maybe 6 out of the remaining 9 were good learning experiences. (The last 3 were ill-conceived.)


This prompted me to go and look through all my goals and see what proportion of them made me achieve things. Since ~2013 I’ve got 34 goals that are current or archived.

  1. 9 successful short term goals, achieved what I set out to do (26%)
  2. 6 goals that led me understand that the thing I thought I wanted to do wasn’t really my priority (18%)
  3. 6 goals (18%) that I think led to sub par performance, I feel as if I might have done better without them, I set the bar too low maybe
  4. 5 goals (14%) where I gave up because the metrics I was trying to measure were too fuzzy or hard to keep track of, these are “you need a plan B” sort of goals.
  5. 4 goals (12%) that got superseded or subsumed into another goal, a variation on the above one where I actually had a plan B.
  6. 4 goals (12%), 3 of which are ongoing, that I consider long term successes

I’ve certainly set up more goals than that, some were deleted very quickly when I worked out they were in categories 2-4.

Looking at this I’d consider most of categories 1, 5 and 6 to be achieved but my head certainly doesn’t feel this 50% success rate!

The ones where I think beeminding has made me subpar are the most thought provoking. I usually think that beeminder’s value is in setting small hurdles but making me jump over them regularly. I’m very much a hare rather than a tortoise, and trying to induce tortoise like keeping-on-going behaviour in myself is how I feel beeminder works. It’s interesting to me that I still seem to feel I’m napping on some of these goals. I think it might be a fear of failure thing. I’m worrying about failing at beeminder more than I’m worrying about failing at my goals.

Actually reading this back before posting I’ve realised that I haven’t labelled single goal as “outright failure”. I think I’ve probably mislabelled something in my notes or missed out some of my goals, but all the same I think that’s pretty positive.