Happy New Year! This is both an exciting and pressure-filled time of the year as some of us start to reflect on our past year and set goals for the upcoming one. New Year’s Resolutions can be a significant part of this day for most people. They can motivate us to address parts of our lives that we believe are in need of improvement. However, New Year’s Resolutions are simply long-term goals, and with long-term goals can come feelings of pressure, guilt, and anxiety. When we set long-term goals that are unrealistic or require a long period of time to measure, we can start to feel disappointed in ourselves, impatient, and resentful.
Typically, I will recommend that my clients make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). SMART goals can allow us to observe change and strive for outcomes that are gradual. They encourage us to see our long-term goal as a result of multiple, smaller goals that were achieved along the way. And with each smaller goal that is achieved, we become more confident and motivated to keep on going. The issue I have with New Year’s Resolutions is that they often focus on outcomes that are measurable after one year…a whole year…365 days. That’s a long time to wait to measure our accomplishments.
In making New Year’s Resolutions that may not lead to feelings of anxiety and disappointment, it may be more helpful to set anchors or deadlines throughout the year in order to set smaller goals and to allow for evaluating our progress in shorter increments. These timeframes can be monthly, quarterly, or based on significant times of the year (ex. birthdays, vacations, holidays). With each deadline, you may find it helpful to set smaller goals to evaluate that move you closer and closer to your ultimate goal at the end of the year. Regular review of your resolution can help address and prevent feelings of anxiety and guilt because you can modify the process at any time rather than letting things go for a prolonged period of time, recognizing that you are not moving forward “fast” enough, and giving up. The idea of 30 day challenges are great ways to begin this process. Setting several 30 day challenges for ourselves throughout the year can make a year long goal less daunting. Doing a simple search on sites such as Pinterest can give you amazing ideas on how to start with these challenges. 30 day challenges also remind us that we don’t have to wait until the beginning or end of the year to bring positive changes in our lives. We can start making these changes at any time.
In achieving any goal, I advise my clients that if you were to view your life as a road map, with your long-term goal as your ultimate destination, there are always more than one path to get you there. It is often not the most direct and straight path either. It is usually the long, windy road, with detours and cliffs and hurdles to jump over that will lead us to our destination. However, when we follow this complicated and sometimes frustrating path, we appreciate our destination more when we finally arrive. We learn about ourselves through our journey and value the hard work and determination that we had to endure in order to get to where we want to be.
I am by no means anti-New Year’s Resolution. I believe that they can be motivating and encouraging. They get us excited about our future. I do, however, understand the dangers of setting unrealistic and untimely goals and the effects of these dangers on our mood and our thoughts. Good luck to all who have already set your resolutions. Believe in yourselves and if you find your path drifting in the wrong direction, find your way back but always remember to enjoy the journey to get there.
“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.”