We are all familiar with that feeling excitedly setting new year’s resolutions in anticipation of a more productive, 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 have a large impact on personal competence levels, self-esteem, and eventually, mental health. 

Are New Year’s Resolutions Really Pointless?

It depends on what resolutions you set. Experts have pointed out that well-set resolutions can be beneficial to our productivity and wellbeing as they are strongly motivating. Conversely, however, poorly-set goals can be defeating. 

How can New Year’s Resolutions Benefit our 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 targets 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 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.

How Do We Set Achievable New Year’s Resolutions?

  • Be specific in what you want to achieve

Being specific in what we want to achieve and avoiding ambiguous or vague aims can help increase the sustainability of our goals.

  • Consider your abilities

Tailoring our goals to fit our personal situations and capabilities increases our chances of attaining them. Consider what you are good at, opportunities within your current environment which you can tap on, and people/resources within your reach.

  • Consider your situational factors

We also need to be mindful of other commitments we have on hand take note of the pace and degree to which you are pushing yourself. While we work hard in pursuit of our goals and dreams, creating a healthy rhythm of hustling and resting is key to ensuring that our progress is sustainable. 

Learning to rest before we get burnt out enables us to continue functioning on a full tank; with healthy levels of energy and positive emotionality, we experience increased life satisfaction. 

  • Write down concrete steps

Planning out concrete steps to our goals will reduce procrastination with actionable steps that operationalize the goals that we want to achieve for ourselves. Over time, following these steps becomes a routine, making it easier to keep up.

An additional tip is to chase these goals with a friend or family member. Doing so can increase our commitment to our resolutions as we have someone to share our successes and struggles with. Not to mention, it adds a splash of fun to the journey!

Examples

Be SpecificI want to become healthier by exercising 2 days a week, starting from the coming Monday.

I want to be healthier.

Consider abilities

I don’t exercise at all, I should start small by running 30 mins each time

I don’t exercise at all, I should start running 2 hours a day to make up for it

Consider situational factors

I am aware of my busy schedule, but I could make a bit of time two times a week as a form of self-care .

I am busy but I will try my best to fit 5 exercises a week.

Plan out concrete stepsI will run 30 mins every Monday and Thursday after work.

I will run more this year.

What If I Regress On My Goals?

It is okay to fall back onto certain habits – we need to understand that breaking them is not a linear process. There will be successful and unsuccessful days, and we should not be hard on ourselves on 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-identified 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. 

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. Having a mental health professional walk you through this can be helpful in starting your journey towards overcoming those bad habits.

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