Rethinking Resolutions: The Psychology Behind Short-Term Goals

Rethinking Resolutions: The Psychology Behind Short-Term Goals

When the clock stroke midnight on New Year's Eve, millions around the globe engage in the time-honored tradition of setting New Year's resolutions. Whether it's losing weight, adopting healthier habits, or achieving career milestones, the allure of a fresh start often leads us to commit to year-long goals. However, psychology suggests that the enthusiasm behind these resolutions may not be the key to success. In fact, evidence shows that setting lofty, year-long objectives might be more detrimental than beneficial to our mental well-being.

The Psychology of Long-Term Goals:

Research in psychology has consistently demonstrated that the human mind is better equipped to handle short-term goals as opposed to long-term resolutions. The brain is wired to seek instant gratification, and the idea of committing to a goal that spans an entire year often leads to a lack of motivation and loss of momentum.

  1. The Zeigarnik Effect: The Zeigarnik Effect, a psychological phenomenon, suggests that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks more than completed ones. When we set a New Year's resolution and fail to follow through, the looming sense of unfinished business can be mentally taxing.

  2. Loss of Momentum: Human motivation tends to wane over time, and the initial excitement of a New Year's resolution can quickly dissipate. The longer the goal persists, the harder it becomes to maintain the same level of commitment and dedication.

The Harm of Unfulfilled Year-Long Resolutions:

The cycle of setting ambitious resolutions only to abandon them shortly thereafter can take a toll on mental health. The constant self-criticism and feelings of failure associated with unmet goals can lead to stress, anxiety, and a diminished sense of self-worth.

  1. Negative Self-Talk: Continuous failure to meet a year-long resolution often results in negative self-talk, where individuals berate themselves for lacking discipline or willpower. This internal dialogue can erode self-esteem and hinder future attempts at self-improvement.

  2. Learned Helplessness: Unmet goals can contribute to a sense of learned helplessness, where individuals begin to believe that their actions have little impact on outcomes. This mindset can be paralyzing and hinder progress in other areas of life.

Rethinking the Approach:

Instead of succumbing to the traditional New Year's resolution model, consider adopting shorter, more manageable goals. Monthly or even weekly objectives can leverage the power of immediate rewards and help maintain motivation.

  1. Celebrating Small Wins: Breaking down larger goals into smaller, achievable milestones allows for more frequent celebrations of success. This positive reinforcement reinforces the behavior, making it more likely to continue.

  2. Adapting to Changing Circumstances: Life is dynamic, and circumstances change. Short-term goals offer the flexibility to adapt to unforeseen challenges without feeling defeated by a year-long commitment.

A Pep Talk for Progress:

Embarking on a journey of self-improvement is commendable, but it's crucial to be realistic about the process. Instead of fixating on year-long resolutions and potential setbacks, focus on the progress made in the short term.

Embrace the Journey: Understand that progress is a journey, not a destination. Each step, no matter how small, brings you closer to your ultimate goal.

Reflect and Adjust: Regularly assess your goals and make adjustments as needed. Life is unpredictable, and adapting your approach is a sign of resilience, not failure.

Seek Support: Share your goals with friends, family, or a supportive community. Having a network of encouragement can make the journey more enjoyable and less isolating. Looking to work on bothersome symptoms, improve bodily functions and physical wellbeing or looking to work on your weight and physique? Sign up to work 1 on 1 with us. Join the team!

Back to blog