New Free Workshop Focuses on Setting Realistic Goals

Register for Goal-Setting workshop with Megan Kastner of COVID Support VT

How’s your New Year’s resolution holding up? Did you make one? If you did, was it realistic, from the vantage point of hindsight? 

If you’ve abandoned the whole idea of marking a new year with a new resolution, you’re not alone. A 2020 survey found that 57% of Americans don’t make them at all. Among those who do, only about 7% kept their resolution long-term. By Feb. 1, two-thirds of resolutions made Jan. 1 are abandoned.

Why do so many New Year’s resolutions fail? The reasons are as individual as the people who are making them. Yet, some overriding themes emerge from the failings of resolutions past, says Megan Kastner, a support counselor with COVID Support VT. Kastner is facilitating a new weekly workshop on setting (and meeting) goals. 

She says the New Year, or any time of “new beginnings” is a time when people might be reflecting on their lives and where they want to make changes, so it’s a perfectly natural time to set things in motion. At the same time, there may be undue pressure to profess some goal just because it’s the New Year. That’s when things can go awry.

“There’s this expectation that because it’s the New Year, we should be making some kind of bold pronouncement,” Kastner says. “But if you feel obligated to make some kind of goal that you might not really be aligned with, you’re probably going to be less motivated to achieve it.”

Top Reasons Why Goals Fail

In the first weekly Goal-Setting workshop, Kastner laid out five reasons that goals fail.

Pressure. This can come in the form of occasions like New Year’s or a landmark birthday, or from situations or people in your life. Pressure isn’t always negative and can be a motivator in proper doses. Alignment with your life is the crucial part.

Unrealistic goals. We might be revved up to make a change, so we dream big. Even with the best intentions, shooting too high, too big, or too fast can set you up to fail, which then makes it harder to set goals next time.

Vague objectives. Sweeping, imprecise goals, like “eat healthier” or “get in shape” may sound fine, but they lack specificity. Without delineating the action steps that you will take to eat healthier or get in shape, Kastner says “you’re just hoping it will happen.”

Lack of support. Having the right kind and level of support can be critical, especially with difficult or long-term goals. Some of us also benefit from having someone we trust who can help us be accountable for progress toward our goals.

“Shoulds” vs. wants. Are we basing our goals on what we think we should be doing? Or what others think we should be doing? Or are they based on our own true hopes and dreams? How much are external expectations shaping your goals vs. what you want? 

Getting Goals Right

Each of the goal-killers above has a corresponding solution which Kastner expands upon in the workshop. (Free and virtual every Thursday at noon – register here.) She offers a step-by-step how-to on setting goals that are attainable and in line with your personal well-being. 

“Think about the areas of your life where you may want to make a goal, maybe something that you want to change or improve,” Kastner says. “It could be in your job or career planning, education, family or friends, personal finances, social or creative endeavors. Maybe you just want to bring more joy into your life. Notice all those areas, and maybe start by focusing on just one.”

Once you’ve identified the general area on which you want to focus, you can narrow down your specific objectives through a process Kastner calls “the Big Picture.” Systematically and honestly accessing what’s important to you is the first step. By asking the right questions about what you want, why and when you want it, you’ll be in a better position to delineate specific, attainable goals and to stay on track achieving them. 

Learn More and Find Resources

Register here for Megan Kastner’s free, virtual workshop on Goal-Setting, at COVID Support VT.

Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) can be a great source for information and support in setting goals and staying on track. Check with your Human Resources office about your EAP benefits.

Vermont’s Helpline, 2-1-1, and Vermont HelpLink are two Green Mountain-based resources where you find guidance and resources that can help you attain your goals.

Blog written by Brenda Patoine on behalf of VCN/Vermont Care Partners for COVID Support Vermont, a grant funded by FEMA and the Vermont Department of Mental Health

Need to Talk?

Call 2-1-1 (in Vermont) for assistance.

In Crisis? 

If you or someone you care for is experiencing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you can: call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-825; text VT to 741741 to connect with a Crisis Counselor 24/7; connect with your local community mental health center for 24/7 support. 

Find Help

Find resources and tools for coping with stress at

One-click translation to 100 languages of most everything on the website, plus Multilingual Resources.

Find your local community mental health center by visiting Vermont Care Partners.

COVID Support VT is funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Federal Emergency Management Agency, managed by Vermont’s Department of Mental Health, and administered by Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of 16 non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use, and intellectual and developmental disability services and supports. 

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