Well, the holidays are over and many of us are getting organized for this new year… hopefully after taking some days off to rest. Many of us get very excited for the new year, ready to shed off anything that was disappointing from 2018 and find our best selves in 2019. We boldly exclaim that this new year will be better, create goals and resolutions, and face January bright-eyed and optimistic. I do the same thing and think that this is a great idea because it creates motivation for us to accomplish things that are important to us and make positive change. Some people decide to lose weight, travel, change jobs, avoid difficult people, or practice self-care. But as the days pass into the second or third week of the year, I notice that many of those resolutions stay as ideas with no actions to back them up. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to change, to be perfect, and to accomplish all of our life’s dreams in a single year. Or we have this idea that we can change overnight, but it takes commitment, work, time, and self-love.
BE REALISTIC AND SPECIFIC
When setting your new year’s resolutions, remember to be specific and realistic. Rather than say, “I’m going to lose 20 pounds!” say “I am going to go to the gym at least twice a week and eat a salad three times a week.” If you want to change jobs, don’t just dream of having a new job. Commit to applying to one new job per week or attending a training to add to your skillset. These are specific, realistic actions you are committing to, as opposed just focusing on the end goal. When you only dream about the end result and don’t map out a plan, you are sabotaging yourself. We often just look at the end line, rather than looking at what we’re doing to get there. How you reach your goal is more important than achieving the goal in terms of making lasting, positive changes to your lifestyle.
JUST KEEP MOVING FORWARD
When creating resolutions for the new year, you don’t have to accomplish every goal you’ve set out for yourself. One of the best things we can do to make sure we keep moving in the right direction is to be able to forgive ourselves. Remember, you will definitely hit bumps in the road. Don’t view those bumps or challenges as failures. It’s during those challenging times that we learn the most about ourselves and become smarter and stronger.
If you didn’t achieve all of your goals, don’t be so hard on yourself and acknowledge your feelings. Are you feeling disappointed? Sad? Frustrated? Transfer those strong emotions into strong positive change. Let those feelings motivate you to keep moving forward and reflect back on what you were able to accomplish. Celebrate any positive change, no matter how small. Did you want to lose 10 pounds but only lost 5? That’s a big accomplishment! Did you not lose any weight or even gain weight? Reflect back on the last few weeks and use that as a learning opportunity. Are there external factors that prevent you from reaching your goal? Have you had the time to focus on self-care? Anything you learn about yourself and how that factors into you achieving your goals is still a positive change. If you take the time to reflect, you’ll gain insight and be able to turn that into something valuable. There’s no way to fail a task as long as you put some work into it. Maybe you haven’t made any effort to accomplish your goals. That could be an indication that the goal isn’t meaningful to you, so that’s why you didn’t put the time into it. That information is important to know about yourself. Reevaluate if that resolution actually matters to you, or if you set it because of external pressures, such as family members, social media, etc. Knowing this about yourself is gaining insight and still a step in the right direction. Don’t be discouraged. We all move forward at our own pace and might take a couple steps back, and then forward again. That’s how we learn. Just keep believing in yourself and you’ll get there.
Did you accomplish a goal much faster than you expected? What’s your plan to keep moving forward for the rest of the year? You lost those 20 pounds? Great! Now what? You don’t want to gain the 20 pounds back, so what goals are you going to set to stay at your current weight or lose more? Did you land your dream job? What skills can you learn to be even better at it? We constantly have to reevaluate our goals and make new ones. Becoming better versions of ourselves is a continuous process that’s not defined by a calendar.
THE CYCLE OF ATTAINING YOUR GOALS
Making new year’s resolutions and then not accomplishing them is unfortunately a cycle that all of us face. It’s important to learn and understand that cycle in order to break it and make a new cycle where we accomplish our goals and resolutions. Keep in mind that each of us is unique and our process is too. This is a general idea of how the cycle of goal-setting may look like when we stick to a plan and achieve our resolutions:
- We want something to change
- We think about how the change would look like and focus on how nice it would be.
- We get excited about it.
- We come with some concrete ideas/steps on how to make change possible.
- We follow our steps and make adjustments as necessary.
- We find ourselves accountable for taking the steps.
- We take credit for our work and enjoy the process.
- We evaluate where we are in the process and how it relates to our goal or resolution. This will help us make changes to our goal and enjoy our accomplishment.
- We think about what else we want to change and create new goals.
Again, this looks very nice on paper but sometimes you may struggle with all those steps. I see most people lose their motivation and focus on step 3 or 4. When this happens, you may find yourself feeling lost, overwhelmed, or distracted. The cycle shifts into feelings disappointment or depression and giving up on our goals. During these times it’s important to remember to forgive yourself. We all make mistakes and we just have to keep believing in our ability to achieve what we set our minds to.
TIPS TO HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS
Here is a list of tangible ideas that can help you accomplish your goals and resolutions:
- Take the time to notice your feelings on a daily basis when you take steps towards achieving your goal and when you face challenges.
- Value taking a step forward, even if it’s a small step. The goal is for you to feel proud, strong, worthy, and happy in the process.
- Don’t commit to a financial investment that creates stress and doesn’t help you achieve your goal. For instance, many of us purchase a gym membership or plan a beach vacation as motivation to lose weight faster, but it often has a negative effect of creating stress. Many people pay for a gym membership they never use, and it makes us feel worse. Before you spending all that money, start with cheaper alternatives and see if you can stick to that. For example, try adding a daily walk to your schedule. Once you get into the routine of exercising regularly you can consider spending money on a membership.
- Keep it easy! Because of excitement, you are likely to go above and beyond, and then you burn out. It’s like running up a hill without breathing consistently or taking breaks – you’ll likely want to give up before you reach the top. Keeping a consistent pace, rather than exhausting yourself early, will allow you to enjoy your accomplishments.
- Ask for help. Get a friend, family, or coworker to support and remind you why you are doing this.
- Use a visual for your goals. For instance you can mark goals on a calendar and keep track when you get it done.
- Revaluate, modify, and keep following your steps – that shows you are present. This will help you adjust to what works and what doesn’t.
- Remember that making changes or creating resolutions need to honor you in every aspect of your life: personally and professionally. Self-care is super important, so whatever goals you set for yourself, make sure you are happy during the process of achieving your goals.
If you find yourself feeling stressed or anxious from trying to accomplish your goals, or depressed because you’ve stopped trying, know that you are not alone and I am here for you. I offer solution-focused therapy so you can get back on track to being the best version of yourself. If you live in or near Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, contact me today to schedule a counseling appointment.