Psychotherapist Gershon Portnoi explains why you need to think carefully when setting your goals for the year ahead.
For many of us, the start of a new year coincides with a vast set of new goals that we task ourselves with achieving. Whether it’s winning the cup with our team or getting promoted at work, we all aspire to hit the heights in the year ahead.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. After all, we can never be expected to achieve much in life without setting targets. But occasionally there can be a downside to making a new year’s resolution.
Imagine a scenario where you set yourself a target of being able to do 100 keepie-uppies, having never previously managed to do more than five or ten. You start off all guns blazing and before you know it you’ve hit twenty, then thirty, and you’re feeling great.
But then, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get past forty and you begin to feel a sense of disappointment and failure. In some cases, these kinds of negative feelings can start spilling out into other parts of your life and your self-esteem might be affected, which can itself trigger a prevalent low mood and anxiety.
Although this is an entirely made-up situation and you’re unlikely to damage your mental health while attempting to improve your football skills, it is based on a realistic chain of events: if you set your bar too high, you run the risk of crashing head-first into a major disappointment.
So, whether you’re after a rock-hard set of abs or a thirty-goal season, the key thing to ask yourself is whether your goal is achievable.
If you’re the office intern, resolving to become the CEO by the year’s end is definitely unrealistic, but if you aim to become a full-time member of staff, it’s far more likely.
Similarly, it’s important that the goal you set is as specific as it can be – instead of aiming to lose weight or get fit, give yourself an exact target like losing half a stone or running a half marathon.
It’s also important to have a detailed plan in place for achieving your resolution, and to only focus on one particular goal rather than making a long list of targets.
Finally, resolving to achieve something you’ve previously failed to do is another potential problem, as you’ll be highly likely to approach the task lacking in real belief.
Whatever you decide to do (or not do), here’s to a genuinely happy new year.
To find out more about Gershon and his psychotherapy practice, visit gershonportnoipsychotherapy.com.