Are Goals Necessary or Unnecessary for the New Year? ft. Some of Mine by SACNAS Vice President Elizabeth Mendieta

Setting goals is a unique experience for every individual. For some it may be overwhelming, seem unattainable, and feel like it is something that will determine their self-worth. As for others, it makes them feel encouraged, ambitious, organized, and boosts their self-esteem. Whether or not you set a goal(s) for 2021, what matters most is how you see yourself.

About a week before the new year, I was having a conversation with my boyfriend about setting goals for the new year and he started to say how having more than one or two goals for the year is too much. His reasoning was, “it is more realistic to reach the goals if there’s fewer rather than a bunch at once.” When he said that I proceeded to ask Google, “Is having goals a good thing?” I read several articles that started to give me mixed feelings about setting goals. I have always been the type of person to set a couple goals at once, and even if I didn’t achieve all of them, I could still continue to set a lot of them. After reading the articles, I started to think that maybe my boyfriend was right and that it was better to have only one or two goals rather than having like ten. However, some articles also reminded me of why I liked setting goals for myself. I believe now that it all comes down to an individual’s mind and behavior. For some it may be having no goals, one main goal, or several goals.

In an article on BBC Worklife, journalist Amanda Ruggeri explained why setting goals is not good for our mental health. Through Ruggeri’s article, I gained an understanding of why some people choose to set only one goal or none at all.  She states that goals “can kill your creativity, make you more likely to cheat, and less likely to thrive.” Ruggeri mentions two of the greatest problems of setting goals that helped me understand why they are not meant for everyone to have. One, there is a disconnect between the goal and the person. People are pressured to have goals and when they write them down, their goals become what they think they should do rather than what they actually want to achieve.

The second problem with goal setting is that we are merely focusing on the outcome and Ruggeri says this “feeds into hamster wheel mentality.” Ruggeri suggests that it is more beneficial to focus on the process and forget entirely about the main goal. As an example of this in the article, Ruggeri mentions Oprah Winfrey who is the US’s third wealthiest self-made woman according to Forbes. Oprah stated that the reason for her success was that her focus, “has never, ever for one minute been money.” Ruggeri asserts that Oprah, along with many other successful people, have never set a goal to get where they are. The people that I know who do not really set goals for themselves are the ones who say that they like to work at their own pace and not compete with time.

A vision board example that inspires me to make one. This one was made by a teacher.

I partly agree that Ruggeri’s beliefs are correct; however, I feel that the pros of setting goals outweigh the cons. I am a visual person. When I set goals, I like to write them down on a sticky note or in my planner so that I can see it as a reminder. Recently, one of my good friends suggested that we make vision boards and I thought that was a great idea. Vision boards are something that I could see every morning when I wake up and something I could look at when I feel hopeless. I enjoy setting goals because they hold me accountable. They let me know where I stand and where I need to get to. I easily get distracted but having a list of things I want to accomplish allows me to focus more. I’m not going to lie and say that I always have goals. In fact, although I think goals are beneficial for me, goal setting is not for everyone or for every situation. As I mentioned before, I understand Ruggeri’s argument, but when I have not had them, I’ve lost motivation.

2020 was tough for everyone. I started the year with my mind set on my study abroad program and using that opportunity to grow as a person and network with professionals in the veterinary field in another country. At the end of February 2020, I departed for South Korea. Two days after being there I received an email from the university saying that I must return due to the ongoing pandemic. I was upset and stressed because I knew I just lost a semester of school. I tried to plan out all of my remaining classes so that I would still graduate with my Spring 2022 class. In that moment, that was all that mattered to me.

Selfie at Gyongbokgun Palace a few days after finding out that all study abroad programs were suspended. My friends and I tried to make the best out of the few days we had left.

After this happened to me, I lost motivation for the rest of the year. I set no goals for myself and I got distracted by other things; I had never struggled so much with balancing my classes like I did this past Fall. Now, fast forward to today, I can say that I am okay with graduating a semester late and it is okay to not rush towards graduation. It is a new year, and for me that means a fresh start. It is another chance to do the things I could not do before.

Something else I believe is that when you set goals, do not keep them a secret. By that, I mean share them with the people around you that care about you because they will give you the support you need to help you reach your goals. Below, I share some of my goals for this year to hopefully inspire you to set some too, if you haven’t already. I choose to organize them into the following categories: career, social, financial, health, and daily tasks.

  • Career:
    • Plan homework/study times for each class to balance my time better.
    • Earn a paid internship this Summer.
    • Become a TA for a STEM class.
  • Social:
    • Volunteer regularly to help those in greater need.
    • Be a mentor for someone. In the past I have learned a lot from being a mentor and a mentee.
  • Financial:
    • Pay off at least ¼ of my car debt.
  • Health:
    • As someone who struggles with negative body image, my weight is constantly going up and down. My goal is not to achieve a specific number on the scale, but to reach a point where I can love my body.
    • Eat more plant-based.
    • Make more time to relax my mind and meditate.
  • Daily Tasks:
    • Limit screen time when I lay down for bed.
    • Make my bed every morning all the way, do not just cover it up.
    • Read anything.

In conclusion, I believe that goal setting is a personal preference. It works for some and does not for others. Some situations may call for it, and others may not. However, one goal I wish everyone has is to feel happiness.


Rugger A. (2017). Why we should all give up on goals already. BBC Worklife.

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