New Year, Same You: Is it Necessary to Set Big Expectations for Yourself Every Year?

Before kicking yourself for failing to achieve all the career goals you’ve set for this year, find out if you’re really underachieving or just overly zealous in your pursuit of success.

Before the start of a new year, you tell yourself that you’ll do things better than the current one and achieve a whole bunch of goals you’ve set. There is this great amount of urgency to propel yourself into becoming a better version of yourself for the upcoming year.

“New year, new me!” you call it. However, the phrase itself is certainly not new – every start of a new year, many hopefuls like yourself proclaim it like an urban mantra to renounce bad habits or make amends for failures of the past. 

Of course, when reality sets in, most won’t be able to uphold these lofty aspirations and like them, you’re left with the same self that you so desperately wanted to overhaul.

Are you really lacking career-wise?

In making resolutions for the new year, it’s highly likely that your list includes things you want to achieve career-wise. But have you ever thought that the resolutions that you set for yourself year after year, is really a sugar-coated way of kicking yourself for what you think you’re lacking in? 

“I want to get promoted,” could be another way of saying, “I’m not happy with my current responsibilities.” 

“I’m going to get that pay raise,” may be a rephrasing of, “I think my pay is too small.” 

And even something like, “I’m going to get into my boss’ good books,” simply means that you may have a toxic boss who needs some kind of a smoke signal to notice your contributions.

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Every year, you list the same things you hope to achieve in your career, and it begs the question: why haven’t you achieved them last year?

When the increments of change are too challenging for the person, the likelihood of failure increases. Some common reasons are setting unrealistic goals or underestimating the amount of commitment and time required in making habitual or lifestyle changes, according to Dr Tracie Lazaroo, a clinical psychologist at Inner Light, a centre that provides clinical psychology and therapy services in Singapore. 

Perhaps, it’s time to shift your focus. Instead of setting herculean goals for yourself year after year, recall what you’ve achieved over the past year and reassess.

Lose the negative resolutions: You’re already great

It’s natural to have the burning desire to make leaps and bounds in your career. However, before you get into the ambitious planning for the year ahead, it’s also important to be realistic with your expectations and give credit to yourself where it’s due. 

Dr Tracie said: “Self-sabotaging patterns may also have an impact, and may include procrastination, impatience or even expecting too much from yourself within a short timeframe, instead of being more flexible with your goals. Some may also experience difficulties in finding the balance between discipline and motivation.”

So instead of saying “I am going to be better” which inherently is the same as telling yourself, “I’m not good enough right now”, change the script and say, “I’m doing good and I’m going to keep it this way.” 

Wait, you’re saying that there’s nothing you’ve done well over the past year? Don’t be too hard on yourself! You just survived another year of work in a pandemic. Widen your benchmark for career success beyond pay and position. 

Take some time to think back on what went really well in 2021, and focus on how you can apply those strengths to your current challenges. Perhaps some of these achievements may ring a bell to you:

1. Becoming a Zoom master

You may have struggled to use any of these online video conferencing platforms in 2020, but not in 2021. This year, you have become so adept at not only managing the technicalities of this technology, but also how to build rapport virtually, including honing active listening, and engaging an audience remotely without breaking a sweat. 

2. Becoming a great juggler

Working from home over the past year means having to balance both your personal and professional lives at the same time. You may now use your lunchtime to do your laundry and if you’re a parent, you would have adapted to working while tending to your kids at home. Multitasking is your middle name. 

Working from home, you may also have taken the opportunity to upgrade your skills, learn new languages, pick up a paintbrush, or even start dabbling in new age practices. All the things you’d never otherwise even think of doing pre-Covid. Even if some of these skills are outside of your current job scope, congratulations, you’ve value-added your professional profile. 

3. Becoming a Zen master

Working during the pandemic this year, you have faced, managed and overcame times of adversity, increased stress, and uncertainty. The increased workloads, strained resources, rapid changes and so forth, have been challenging, but through it all, you’ve shown extraordinary resilience and patience working under these circumstances. Yes, you have, otherwise, you wouldn’t still be here.

4. Becoming a Care Bear

Going through a challenging period at work with your colleagues has made you become more empathetic and respectful to others. You’ve grown to understand the difficulties of others such as your co-workers who are parents who need to take frequent time-off or those who have fallen sick due to Covid-19. You find yourself helping them with their workload and even checking on their well-being, even more than before.

Take stock of your strengths 

Recognising the things that you’re good at, at work doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not being honest with your weaknesses or flaws. Rest assured that the year ahead will offer you plenty of opportunities to beat yourself up, and do better.

So focus on the employee that you are today — not the idealistic vision for who you want to become, or feeling ashamed about your job. 

“It is important to understand that the process of change takes time and practice. The process is challenging in itself, let alone the goal or change. Finding a method that works uniquely for you is key. Not hitting our goals may not feel good, but you can mitigate this by being less critical of yourself and remaining objective on what went wrong, and how specific decisions may have impacted the outcome,” said Dr Tracie.  

So, take stock of your strengths both big and small. It can be something as simple as your ability to run fun team bonding sessions online or perhaps your Excel wizardry in being able to do up is just as worthy of celebration as your expertise and skills at work. 

Sure, you could be better career-wise, but there’s no denying that there are things about your job that are already great. 

End this year with positivity for a better one ahead

The reality is that there’s no benefit in setting the same targets for your career for years on end, only to feel disappointed and down on yourself.

According to Dr Tracie, it is important to manage expectations and keep the situation in perspective – thinking about what are reasonable steps within the timeframe, and what is feasible considering your unique circumstances. She said:

“Practicing grace and compassion towards yourself will go a long way as it can give you the needed flexibility to persevere through the challenges or changing circumstances surrounding your goal.”

So go ahead and enter the New Year with zero pressure on your back to achieve anything other than keeping yourself open to the possibility of your potential, being adaptable to change and always ready to accept your shortcomings.

If you’re really looking for a positive change in your career, speak to a career coach to get professional advice. Meanwhile, here’s a list of relevant articles compiled to help you better assess yourself at work!

You can’t control everything to suit you, but you can take charge of your own happiness at work.

If Your Career isn’t Going Well, Perhaps it’s Time to Consider This New Perspective

Being Happy at Work: How to Attain it for Your Career Success

The Right Career Move? Being Considerate to Others

Why Resilience is a Key Skill for Your Career

If your career goals are far-fetched, then achieving success will always remain a dream.

Navigating Career Progress According to Personality Traits

Defining Your Career Goals in a Post Pandemic World

Stop knocking yourself down and celebrate the wins you’ve had at work.

6 Signs You’re Doing Well in Your Job (Even if No One Told You So)

New Year, Same You: Your Checklist to Staying Mentally and Physically Healthy at Work

End-of-Year Career Checklist Steps

Year-End Review: 10 Questions for Self-Reflection

Your Complete End-of-Year Career Development Checklist

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