Most people feel that striving for goals is an important part of being a happy and successful person. But what happens when you set goals that are going to be forever out of the reach of anyone, or are simply out of your reach? New research has shown that it may be psychologically to disengage from some goals and move on with your life.
“When people are faced with situations in which they cannot realize a key life goal, the most adaptive response for physical and mental health may be to disengage from this goal,” the authors said in a statement.
However, the psychologists also found that the teens who readily jumped back into life had a greater sense of purpose and mastery and were less likely to ruminate about the past. Setting new goals may buffer the emotional consequences of failure, the authors said.
Beyond the difficulty admitting failure to reach a goal, there is a concept studied in social psychology that illustrates some other difficulty. The “sunk cost principle” is the idea that the more we have invested in something the less likely we are to prematurely walk away. For example, when you are in a failing business venture where you have invested significant time and money, you will be even more determined to stay with it, even if it will cost more in the long run and still fail, athn if the person walked away.