People who let go of unachievable old goals have a better quality of life, McGill University researchers have discovered. The discovery was made when they were studying data of breast cancer patients.

Researchers had studied 176 breast cancer survivors between the ages of 28 and 79. Self-reports of the individual's capacity to adjust their goals were measured at the start of the study. At the same time, researchers measured self-report of physical activity, sedentary activity, emotional well-being, and daily physical symptoms such as nausea and pain.

Three months later, they took a look at another round of self-reports. The study found that goal reengagement (being able to set new goals) was associated with more physical activity, increased emotional well-being and fewer physical symptoms. In addition, breast cancer survivors who were able to let go of old goals and to find new ones were less sedentary, which contributed to improved well-being. These findings support earlier research showing that goal adjustment can influence better well-being and health.

"By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value," said Carsten Wrosch, researchers at Concordia University's Department of Psychology and Centre for Research in Human Development. "Abandoning old goals allows someone to invest sufficient time and energy in effectively addressing their new realities."

Researchers have also suggested that breast cancer survivors should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity every week to gain health benefits.

"It is safe, feasible and effective for enhancing well-being and health among breast cancer survivors," said Catherine Sabiston, researcher at the McGill University. "Unfortunately, few survivors are engaging in the recommended levels of activity."

"Our research reveals that the capacity to adjust goals plays a pivotal role in facilitating not only high physical activity but also low sedentary activity and thereby contributing to overall improved well-being," said Wrosch. "Given that it is possible to influence adjustment to specific goals; it may be beneficial to integrate goal adjustment processes into clinical practice."