Updated: Jul 21
Well, Happy New Year 2023!!
New Year’s Resolutions
Resolving to be better in the new year. To put issues to rest. To attack problems or endeavors in our lives and solve them. There can be a lot of pressure to undertake BIG life-transforming endeavors for the New Year, to get healthy, learn a new language, to start exercising, make more $, to succeed at something important.
I want to offer some basic principles and suggestions that will help you support your New Year resolutions regardless of what they may be, and even if you don’t do resolutions at all.
I think it’s nice to take some time to reflect and plan, in general, and regularly checking in with what we’re doing and how things are going in relation to our goals is a great idea. It’s useful to set big year-long goals like this, but there are some dangers.
A synonym for a resolution is a “definite promise,” in this case a promise to ourselves. But there’s an edge to this word for me -- that “I RESOLVE,” sounds so formal and rigid -- a little bit scary, right off the bat. The timeframe is big, too. That can be freeing, but it can also be a little intimidating. What if I can’t do it?! Then I feel discouraged, like a failure.
The Downsides of New Year’s Resolutions
There can be a sort of desperation to it, like we can ONLY start important efforts at this important time, and if we miss it or fall short, or don’t start on that very first day, our optimism plummets, and we think, “Oh well, now I’m doomed to wait for at least another year, and it’s probably a sign that I can’t do it at all and that my whole year is going to be full of failure.”
The biggest problem is that we envision being able to do more, faster than we can, and we become discouraged before we hit the payoff with a lot of our efforts. Many of us start off like gangbusters and then aren’t able to sustain that pace. Some of us can’t get ourselves started, it feels so overwhelming or impossible at the pace we’ve set ourselves.
10 Concepts and Suggestions to Support Your New Year Resolutions and Goal Setting
So how can we support our New Year resolutions? Make big plans and set ourselves up for success without being tripped up by day-to-day surprises, challenges and losing our motivation or feeling discouraged?
Keep the following ideas in mind to create an environment where you can pursue goals, achieve the things you want for yourself, and enjoy life all along the way.
1) You matter
This is key, and I realize this can be a tough one for us to really embrace. I don’t necessarily mean on a big, global basis, like you’re going to save the world, but in the sense that life matters, people matter, our individual actions add up to something that matters.
2) Accepting reality is freeing
Accept that we, others and the world actually are the way we are -- flaws and all. Acceptance in the here and now doesn’t preclude change. It allows us to see more clearly so we can figure out what we best can change. Acknowledging that we are sometimes selfish, angry, wrong just like we’re sometimes heroic, kind, brave, smart or altruistic helps us figure out what we can do with our resources at hand, and which we want to cultivate or guard against so we can see our options clearly and try to make good decisions and plans.
3) Our beliefs are not always true
Sometimes we believe things that aren’t true. As we learn, we adjust those beliefs. For example, many of us used to believe Santa Claus was real; our beliefs in religion often change, grow, transform or are sometimes abandoned over time. We have a lot of beliefs about who we are, what we can and can’t do, what we should and shouldn’t think, say, do and feel. Some come from the past. Some are more recent. Some are painful or traumatic. We can gently start to examine these beliefs of ours. We can poke and prod at them a little bit and see if they stand up. In addition to asking whether they are true, we can also ask if they make logical sense or if they are helpful to us.
We can look to our values to help us here, and for consistency between our beliefs, goals and values.
4) Making mistakes is part of learning
No one likes making mistakes, and when we’re trying to learn new skills or information, it’s frustrating to feel like we’re not learning “fast enough,” or we’re not getting the results we want. But we learn from practicing, trying, trying again. Think of some of our most basic skills -- learning to walk, learning to tie our shoes. Struggling with how to read.
5) Watch for negative thinking
Most of our internal, judge-y negative thoughts, those tapes that just run automatically in our minds, are just plain wrong, if not wholly, then they are at least highly distorted. “You’ll never be able to do it,” “You’re not _______ enough,” “There’s no point.” Don’t accept these thoughts at face value. Where did that thought come from? Who told you that? What are you basing this on? What if you could? What if you are enough? Maybe there is a point, even if you don’t gain perfection?
Start just being aware of those just under the radar thoughts, like a running dialogue in our heads. We may narrate or criticize or have a bunch of thoughts all over the place. Challenge those negative ones.
6) Let trying stuff be fun
We can have fun trying new things out, fumbling around with the basics. We’re hardly ever good at things without a little bit of practice. See what works for you in trying to set up new routines and habits to support your goals. Pay attention to what feels good, and also what works well (as two separate things).
Practice, patience and persistence, as they say at SMART Recovery.
7) Be kind to yourself and others
Be gentle with yourself and others. Consider that we’re all doing the best we can at the moment, even if it is a far cry from what we envision. Look for ways to encourage rather than berate yourself.
And don’t give up!! Sometimes we falter a little bit before we find our groove.
8) Set a low bar
When trying to put new things into place, set a truly low bar. For example, if you want to start running, don’t set an hour a day to run; start by getting dressed and going outside and loosening up for 5 minutes, three times a week. If you feel like walking or jogging down to the mailbox and back, great! Go for it. Then add 5 minutes of walking/ jogging in, intersperse some running for a short time, etc. But commit to that initial 5 minutes, no matter what. You can consciously build up to more and more challenging goals, but let yourself be successful. If you do that 5 minutes. Everything else is a bonus.
9) Look for beauty in the world
Look for beauty and small bits of meaning and joy in the everyday and the mundane. Life is made up of small moments.
10) You are worthy
This is such a common fear -- that we’re not worthy of ______ whatever we deem most important in life. You are worthy of love, attention, notice, kindness, happiness, and consideration. And so is everybody else in the world. We can’t be perfect, and we can’t be 100% imperfect either -- on any measure. We all fall somewhere in the middle. That’s part of being human. I think that it’s impossible for us to be “unworthy” of anything. That doesn’t mean we’ll get the things we want, but it’s not because of unworthiness or some fundamental flaw that makes us different and hopeless, as opposed to the rest of the world.
Moving Forward into 2023
Remember, we’re committing to making a change that we can look back on at the end of the year. Any individual day or step may not look all that pretty. But cumulatively, if we work away at things, we can make huge strides in almost any effort.
We can plan and take action and create a cycle of motivation, accomplishment and satisfaction in that. And we can learn to be alert to unhelpful tendencies and patterns that make things harder and figure out ways to counteract them.
But even more important, I think, is to encourage ourselves in our efforts, support them, make them easier to accomplish, and celebrate the little successes, so we can learn from and enjoy everything we possibly can along the way.
Wishing you peace, progress and perspective as you live life and pursue your dreams in this New Year, 2023.