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Mental Health

Why I Don’t Set Goals When I’m Prioritizing My Mental Heath

As a college student who is about to graduate in the spring, I am tired of having to force myself to pretend that I have everything figured out. I constantly get asked by people in my life what my future career plans are, and I can never understand why they keep asking me that question if they never want to hear the real answer, which is “I don’t know.” Focusing on responsibilities I have now is my only priority at the moment, because the pressure to succeed and find a well-paying job straight out of college has taken a toll on my mental health. 

Since the pandemic hit, I haven’t been able to focus on setting goals for myself. Being an overachiever hasn’t served me well in times like these. My depression and fatigue has only quadrupled as I’ve been holed up in my childhood bedroom going to Zoom classes. I cannot think about something as hollow as “success” when parts of the world are literally crumbling before me. 

Work culture constantly drills the idea into our heads that success and overworking is everything. If we are anything less than an overachiever, then we are viewed as being less valued or unproductive. The constant pressure to keep up with the competitive nature of jobs and school in the current climate has only gotten worse, and it has put a strain on me and exacerbated my depression. 


Breath sign
Photo by Tim Goedhart from Unsplash

It may sound ridiculous for a 22-year-old who is barely out of college to be thinking about the pressure of “success,” but when everybody in my life is constantly demanding to know “what my plans are,” how could I not be plagued by anxiety about proving to them that I am being productive? I’m not the only one who feels this way. A study by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that “college students today are more driven than ever before to achieve perfection, and it may be taking a toll on their mental health.”

I refuse to measure my value through whatever career I ultimately choose to pursue. It has taken a long time for me to unlearn the pressure to be “successful.” Focusing on personal fulfillment and alleviating the pressure to set and achieve as many goals as possible has helped me work towards a more balanced and healthy quality of life.  

There is nothing wrong with choosing not to set goals. As Jennifer Cohen writes, “setting goals without setting intentions is a waste of time.” This has prepared me for a life trajectory that will inevitably throw hurdles my way. I want to be able to stick to my principles, which are about valuing rest and self-care, regardless of what my work life will look like. 


Woman in white shirt sleeping in bed
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Setting intentions for myself is about balancing work and rest. Resting is a form of self-care. I often need to take days to myself to take long naps, meditate, spend time outdoors, unplug from social media, and take an entire day to do nothing and allow my brain to recharge. That doesn’t make me any less productive than a workaholic who cannot fathom having a day off. Resting is one of the most valuable forms of productivity, because it allows individuals to return to their daily lives with a restored energy. 

If the pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that the most important part of setting a path for my life is to be prepared to fail and for unexpected events to happen. We all need to hustle to make a living at certain points in our lives, but not so much that it puts a strain on our well-being. It’s important to normalize relaxing and practice self-care just as much as we prioritize hard work.

Isabel Corp

New School '21

Isabel Corp is a third-year Literary Studies major with a concentration in non-fiction writing at Eugene Lang College. Isabel writes about Sex and Relationships & Culture, and her writing can also be found in the blog of the non-profit LGBTQ+ organization, Family Equality.
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