Setting Realistic Resolutions for 2018
We have all heard it before, “New Year, new you!”… While this can be very enticing, the problem with this way of thinking is that it implies we need to reinvent ourselves every January 1st. That somehow we begin each year flawed, in one-way or another. Consider the shift when you hear, “New Year, true you!”. It’s affirming, it’s an invitation to be transparent with ourselves as we reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we want to go in the year ahead. It gives us permission to be our authentic-self when sincerely pondering what we need to shed and what within us desires to grow. Does that feel vulnerable? Good. Because that’s the most courageous place to start.
When it comes to determining your health and wellness resolutions for the New Year, it’s wise to begin by reflecting on what your values are. What is no longer serving your authentic-self? How can you cultivate the vision you have for your mind, body, and spirit? Where do you see yourself a year from now? By identifying what your values are, you begin to align your behavioral changes accordingly and by putting your heart into your resolutions, it allows you connect to them on a deeper level and determine what is most meaningful to you. And trust me, this also makes your resolutions far more likely to stick!
Often times, our New Year’s resolutions can feel cliché, or gimmicky, and rather impersonal. Common ones like, “Get fit”, “Go to the gym”, “Stop smoking,” “Don’t eat carbs” or “Stop dating jerks”, tend have a harder time sticking, or fail to stick at all. These types of resolutions are too restrictive, depriving, or fuel an all-or-nothing mentality. Best to start with resolutions that truly connect to your meaning making style and values, and define measurable steps from there. This is much more likely to lead you to sustainable results.
A helpful technique to make your end goal into an attainable resolution is to use visualization. The more you connect to what it will feel like to be living your resolutions, you have a better chance of actually making them reality. Writing down your goals also engages your brain to see them more clearly. And when you come from a value driven place, your resolutions will be more salient and congruent with your beliefs, which will have a positive effect on your motivation too.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that it’s going to take considerable effort. Change requires action. The first three times we perform a new behavior will feel most effortful. This is a valuable reminder to identify and acknowledge when it occurs during the process of change. In contrast, our habits feel effortless because they are automatic and don’t require much, if any thought. Establishing a new behavior is far from automatic, so remember to be patient with yourself as you establish new habits and encourage yourself with praise and positive affirmations. Be sure to celebrate the changes you’re accomplishing along the way too.
Another, critical rule to keep in mind when it comes to your New Year’s resolutions, is that self-criticism is not an effective motivator for change. No matter how you dish it out — it’s not going to work. Catch yourself when you engage in self-critical talk, it can be noteworthy of larger self-limiting beliefs that may need to be challenged in therapy or counseling. Instead, encourage self-compassion and mindfulness when confronted with this struggle.
So, if you do happen to “fall off the wagon”, or slip up on your New Year’s resolution by the time you’re reading this article, keep in mind that criticizing yourself is not going to help you maintain your original course. If this happens, acknowledge and accept that it has occurred. Reframe it as an invitation to revisit and re-evaluate your resolutions. See it as an opportunity to reflect on why the slip occurred, doing so without criticism or judgment. Actively chose to recommit to your resolutions again, and absolutely, tweak them as needed because chances are you’re discovering things about yourself as you go.
The New Year is also a fabulous time to embrace new behaviors. Consider making a list of things you “haven’t had time for”, or have “always wanted to try”. Check out local opportunities around Columbus to get involved in activities. It doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment, but you might just find yourself loving the dance class you thought you could never fit in during the week, or the guitar lessons that seemed lost long ago, or the foreign language that you always wanted to learn… Along the way, you may discover and reignite passions that will help to fuel you towards your resolutions and allow a “true you” to grow even more.