This is the time of the year when many people make New Year's resolution, some big some small.. These resolutions can be anything from going to the gym every day to starting a new long-term relationship. At the beginning there is a lot of enthusiasm. Sometimes people will spend lots of money on these new resolutions, such as paying for an annual gym membership or purchasing expensive new equipment.
However, more often than not those New Year's resolutions don't last and can lead to a sense of disappointment and feeling down. As we move past the early euphoric period of New Year's resolutions how can we develop practical solutions and a more healthy mental view of ourselves in this new year.
Tip #1 - Have an honest review of your values
Be honest about what you really value and care about. Think about the specific goals you want to achieve in your New Year's resolution but also think about what those goals represent. For example, exercising is often a New Year's resolution for improved health but improved health is also a reflection of other aspects of your life. Is that improved health so you can go on adventures like traveling or is it so you can spend more time with your family? In everyone's life we have to balance our many needs and the many demands placed upon us with the time available to us. Whether it is work, school, family or something else there are many things that we need to deal with in our lives. Understanding what we really value and care about is very important, especially when we take on New Year's resolutions in which we voluntarily place new demands on our time and energy. For example, we may want to exercise every day but if there are other things that we value more or care more about that takes away our attention, this self-imposed demand can lead to negative emotions without positive growth.
Tip #2 - Prioritize your values and activities
After honestly evaluating our values, the next step is to prioritize those values as a part of our overall life. Once we prioritize, we can then analyze how best to spend the time that we have. Oftentimes, people with New Year's resolutions simply think they can add time to their schedules to fill with new activities but that is usually not realistic. Achieving realistic New Year's resolutions means rescheduling time and requires us to think about our values so we can move our time away from things we value less and towards things we value more. For people who have extremely busy work schedules, it might not be realistic to suddenly carve out large amounts of time for new activities. However, waking up just 15 minutes earlier is more realistic and that time can be used to achieve realistic goals.
Tip #3 - Analyze the barriers to success
Analyze the barriers to achieving your New Year's resolutions. Once we have prioritized our goals, we need to seriously analyze the barriers to our goals. Are they mental barriers? Financial barriers? Mental barriers are very common and cause more New year's resolutions to end than anything else. The key to pushing back these barriers is to be realistic about those barriers are. Oftentimes, the mental barrier are automatic negative thoughts. For example, people who want a long-term relationship can be haunted by past failed relationships and their feelings that they aren't good enough. People who want to start a new hobby or activity might feel self-conscious and be afraid of being judged. These automatic negative thoughts can be powerful barriers and prevent people from being creative and working hard to overcome other barriers to achieving their goals. Working with a therapist can be helpful in identifying automatic negative thoughts and developing strategies to overcome them.
Tip #4 - Action Plan
Develop a realistic action plan with small achievable goals.. The action plan must be based on our priorities after a realistic view of our barriers. For example, if someone has not been working out for many years and wants to be more fit, it is not realistic to suddenly run 3 miles every day. A more realistic goal might be to find 10 minutes in the day just to do some walking. Similarly, if someone wants to have a more active social life, a realistic goal might be to just reach out to one friend per week tForcing yourself to join a social group can be overwhelming as a start. Realistic action plans should have defined goals but they should be small, achievable goals, especially at the beginning. It is also important to find the fun in the action plan. Find at least one thing enjoyable about the activity or else it will not be sustainable. Those goals can increase in ambition as your confidence improves by showing an ability to meet those earlier goals.
Tip #5 - Press On
Be kind to yourself but also be fair in analyzing your progress. Sometimes we don't achieve our goals right away, even if they are smaller goals. Sometimes there are setbacks. It is important to be kind to yourself and not give up when there are any failures. We may need to be creative and think outside the box when we encounter problems or setbacks. For example, someone may want to travel around the world this year and has travel plans to Asia but the trip may not happen due to the pandemic. Although going to Asia may not be possible at this time, visiting places that are not as far away can still help fulfill some of that need for adventure. While it may not be the same as the trip to Asia, smaller adventures can lead to growth as opposed to just giving up and doing nothing.
I hope these tips can help you start the New Year on the right foot and in the right mindset. Think about what you can do this upcoming weekend to move closer to your goal. It doesn't have to be a huge step but something you can do and that will help you feel better about yourself.