March 29, 2021

With the vaccine upon us, many harbour hope of life going back to normal and business as usual. If you are thinking of picking up where you left off, it may be wise to pare back your ambitions. Instead, have one or two attainable goals that can foster greater confidence and a sense of pride. This will inevitably improve your overall mental and emotional well-being. Even comedian Robyn Schall said she was not making any resolutions this year apart from drinking more water, after her 2020 goals (of travelling more, being more social) got derailed by the pandemic. Ultimately, it’s not about how big your aspirations are, but about whether they will add lasting value to your life. Here are five reasons why it is perfectly valid to set smaller and more realistic goals this year.

Micro goals are easier to achieve 

When we work on less ambitious goals, the likelihood of achieving them becomes greater. This in turn is a huge morale booster that will give us more satisfaction. Avoid building castles in the air and set targets that are realistic and easily measurable. For example, if you are a couch potato, aiming to run for an hour every morning is a recipe for failure. What perhaps is less far-reaching is doing a few pushups a day, or preparing a healthy meal for lunch. Having less intimidating goals can make you be more confident about your ability to change old habits. 

It releases a constant supply of dopamine

Small wins fill your brain with invigorating bursts of dopamine, that feel-good brain chemical that is released upon hitting a goal. When dopamine is released in large amounts, it generates feelings of pleasure and reward, which keep you motivated. On the other hand, low levels of dopamine can induce reduced motivation and decreased enthusiasm. Since all these positive neurochemicals compel us to keep going, it’s better to have multiple small triumphs than one huge, unrealised pipe dream. 

It’s all right to cut yourself some slack

2020 was undoubtedly a difficult year for everyone. Instinctively the desire to bounce back quickly is on everyone’s mind, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself this year. It shouldn’t be your mandate to rush and cross off unfulfilled goals from the previous year. Show yourself more compassion and forgiveness—you’ve been through the worst. If your finances are tight because of the impact of Covid-19, choosing simpler goals may be more prudent—the bigger ones tend to require more capital before they can be met.

It will motivate you in the long run 

Do not underestimate the power of consistently meeting your mini-goals. According to the Progress Principle, taking regular steps forward is the best way to keep people inspired and to stay on course. You are also less likely to burnout when you are progressing at a sustainable pace. Moreover, once you have momentum going,  it will naturally snowball into a greater one.

Setting large goals from the onset can be problematic

Audacious, pie-in-the-sky goals require a good amount of planning, strategy, and implementation. Furthermore, our ability to stick with large goals requires mental and emotional energy too. While it’s easy to set your sights far, sticking to it is a whole other story. For many, the challenge is the follow-through. Statistics from the University of Scranton show that only 8 per cent of people actually achieve their goals when they set lofty ones. Plus these targets tend to be so overwhelming that many throw in the towel halfway. Or even procrastinate to a point where they never get started. Remember, start strong, finish strong.