It’s that time of the year again when everyone reflects on the year that has passed and sets goals for the new year.
We are all familiar with that feeling—excitedly setting new year’s resolutions in anticipation of a more productive and better year, then feeling increasingly defeated as we struggle to keep up with the goals we’ve set. At best, we give up on those goals and move ahead with more realistic ones. For some, however, the inability to keep up with goals has a large impact on personal competence levels, self-esteem, and, eventually, mental health.
Goal-setting often makes us feel hopeful about the year ahead. It also empowers us by giving us a clear direction towards the goals we want to achieve or the person we want to be.
We need to set realistic, achievable goals and update them regularly as the year progresses to make resolutions beneficial. In other words, while these goals challenge us, they are still within our reach to attain. Pushing ourselves and eventually achieving our goals increases the sense of control we feel over our life outcomes. This motivates us to achieve more, setting us on an upward spiral of emotional wellbeing.
We should also be open to tweaking our goals in light of unforeseen circumstances. In this COVID season, there could be unexpected turns of events that make our goals no longer relevant or achievable. This makes it important for us to be flexible and set new progress markers that continue to push us forward.
Ultimately, goals should work for us—we should not feel enslaved to the goals we’ve set at the start of the year. Should we find ourselves feeling discouraged and defeated, perhaps it is time to relook at our goals and set more achievable ones.
Dr John Lim, chief well-being officer at the Singapore Counselling Centre, said goal-setting itself is not a bad thing. But there is a need to focus on setting realistic, achievable goals and to update them regularly as the year goes along. “This enables us to adopt new year’s resolutions as a practice that increases our feelings of self-efficacy and well-being, rather than avoiding them for fear of missing our target,” he said. He warned that committing to unrealistic expectations can also result in disappointment and demotivation, which could have an impact on people’s self-esteem and affect their mental health.
“At the end of the day, goals should work for us.
We should not feel enslaved to the goals we’ve set at the start of the year. Should we find ourselves feeling discouraged and defeated, perhaps it is time to relook our goals and set ones that are achievable, “said Dr Lim.
What If I Regress On My Goals?
Dr Lim believes that Singaporeans can afford to be more accepting of failures and practice more self-love and self-compassion when such days occur. It is okay to fall back on certain habits—we need to understand that breaking them is not a linear process. He also stated that there will be successful and unsuccessful days, and we should not be hard on ourselves on the days we regress.
It is important to understand that achieving goals often involves failure in the process. What is more critical is whether we learn from our failures. By having increased awareness of what triggers us to backslide, we can try to avoid and overcome them. Counsellors or therapists can help highlight these triggers; we can also self-identify them. The effects of giving up should also be considered – we feel lousy about ourselves and our ability to change. Being “resigned” to our bad habits can set us on a negative spiral of helplessness and poor life outcomes.
We should not feel enslaved to the goals we set at the start of the year. Should we find ourselves feeling discouraged and defeated, perhaps it is time to relook at our goals and set ones that are achievable, “said Dr Lim.
Should you find yourself having more failure than success in changing bad habits, help can be sought from a counsellor. Most often, we act out of underlying needs. While most needs are neither good nor bad, they can be dysregulated due to our past experiences, beliefs, or personality patterns.
Aventis Graduate School offers pro-bono counselling services by our master’s counselling students. We offer counselling services ranging from those experiencing personal to work-related difficulties. This free and confidential service is available to students and alumni of Aventis, as well as partner organizations. Our team of counsellors-in-training is ready to serve clients in person at the Aventis clinic or via an online video platform. They are currently completing the requirements for their Masters’s programme and are strictly overseen by their clinical supervisors, who have long-term experience in private practice and government settings.
To book an appointment, please click here.
Aventis Graduate School also offers a range of counselling and psychology programmes, click here to find out what are the best programmes for you!
Check out our other article, 5 Ways To Stay Grounded In The Pandemic.
How New Year’s resolutions impact mental health