By Sasha Taskier, AMFT
As the New Year approaches, I keep thinking about sitting down to write a lofty list of resolutions and intentions for 2017. The list sometimes feels endless: I want to break my sugar addiction. I want to heal relationships in my life that have gone unattended, or that have had conflict. I want to expand my gratitude practice. I want to find creative ways to give to causes I care about … I could go on and on about ways I want to feel better and be better in 2017.
People usually fall into two ‘camps’ of making resolutions: those who love to make lists, set goals and who find resolutions to be useful and empowering and those who feel like resolutions are a total waste of time, and usually set them up for disappointment or failure. (Of course, there is the secret third camp, those of us who are so exhausted from the year and so busy during the holiday season that the idea of sitting down to think about New Years resolutions is just not going to happen.)
There is no denying that there is immense power in setting intentions. You can read about it in: ‘the power of your mind and setting intentions’ and ‘five steps to setting powerful intentions’. And, while I believe there is greatness in striving to be a better version of ones self, sometimes we’re not quite ready when the New Year rolls around. In fact, certain neuroscience research suggests that spreading out resolutions over time is the best recipe for success. No need to do it all at once!
A few tips for achieving your goals and making them more meaningful–
1. Think about what you need more of this year. Talk about it with your therapist, your spouse and your friends. What brings you joy? What brings you peace? What combats your depression and/or anxiety? What is something you’ve wanted to tackle but haven’t gotten to yet? Start to make a list that serves you.
2. Be specific with your goals. What does ‘getting in shape’ mean to you? What does it mean to ‘be healthier’? Choose specific things that you can stick to – like, practicing yoga twice a week, or finishing 3 water bottles every day.
3. Measure progress. Perhaps this means writing down your progress in a journal, tracking it in an app, or creating milestones that you can use to track your progress. This feedback loop, hopefully, can act as a source of motivation.
4. Share your intentions. Holding yourself accountable, in a more public way doesn’t mean you have to shout from the rooftops. You can share it with your friends, family, and/or therapist – and ask them to help support you in achieving a specific goal.
5. Be patient and kind to yourself. This is hard stuff. We are all mere mortals. Be gentle, and remember that progress is not always a straight line, it can be forward, backwards and zig zagged.
There is a very tricky balancing act between pushing yourself to be better each year and being able to be gentle with yourself and remember, ‘I am enough – no matter what I do or don’t accomplish this year, I am enough.’ At the end of the day, no matter how much we achieve, if there isn’t some self-love attached to that self-motivation, it’s all for naught. (I love this manifesto by Jennifer Pastiloff)
So, to those of us who feel ready to tackle our intentions before the New Year, have at it! To those of us who set intentions and then slip up on the second day of the year, it’s ok. Mistakes do not mean that your intentions no longer count, or that you’ve failed. Keep going. And, to those of us just hanging on by a thread at the end of 2016: take a break; enjoy the holidays, catch up on your sleep, and reclaim your self-care. There is no reason you have to write your resolutions before January 1st, 2017. There is no rule that says you cannot write resolutions (or re-write them) in February, March, April, May, June, …or any other month of the year for that matter.
Perhaps you can keep this proverb in your back pocket and remember:
‘today is the first day of the rest of your life’ (Anonymous)
With that, wishing you a new year filled with motivation, love, care and peace.
Here are a few articles for inspiration for getting started & additional resources: