The start of a New Year feels like an excellent opportunity to make big changes in your life. And while aspiring to be better, stronger, healthier, and happier is great for a positive mindset, it can have the opposite impact when we are too audacious. Instead of finding motivation and confidence, we beat ourselves up for not meeting these resolutions as intended. That’s why it’s vital to not only be realistic in your New Year’s resolutions but to dedicate yourself to maintaining the right mindset and approach throughout each month.
Here, a guide from psychologists, career experts and life coaches on how to set yourself up for success during the next lap around the sun:
Give yourself positive reinforcements.
All too often, we only celebrate a resolution once it’s finished. Say, for instance, you hope to read one book a month. Why reward yourself each month to encourage yourself to keep going? Positive reinforcement goes a long way in maintaining your stamina, explains psychologist Dr. Yvonne Thomas, Ph.D. “After each step, you have achieved on the path to reach your resolution, it is very uplifting to recognize your efforts by rewarding yourself in a healthy way,” she explains. “It doesn’t have to be anything big or expensive, but something that makes you feel good and proud of your progress towards your resolution.”
Don’t just focus on the end goal, enjoy the process of getting there.
In addition to paying tributes to milestones, it’s also essential to try and enjoy yourself along the way. As career expert Olga Etkina says, while being goal-oriented is great, often, we forget that to get from point A to Z, you have to go through B, C, D, E, and so on. “When you only focus on Z, you conveniently forget all the hard work to get there, and subsequently, you risk getting overwhelmed when you realize the true journey to change,” she says. “Make sure that you don’t glamorize the process of growth, truly outline and understand the change you need to make to achieve your goals.”
Discover your hope.
Some say hope is not a strategy, but it is an essential part of the strategy if you ask life coach Kimberly DuBrul. What does she mean? To make a resolution in the first place, you need a driving desire or belief within you that pushes you to change. That flicker of hope will keep you going, but you have to recognize it’s within you. “There may be little proof or no clear road map (very normal!), yet they can operate on blind faith. If you know of anyone who has achieved what you want to achieve, it is no longer blind faith; it’s just faith in yourself and the possibility,” she says. “Creating a mental picture of the end result stokes hope.”
Try to think more long-term and long-lasting.
When you are brainstorming your resolutions, shy away from short-term aspirations. As an example, many people will say, ‘I want to lose 30 pounds by March’, and then they get discouraged when they don’t meet that timeframe. This is because you’re setting yourself up for failure, says Vishen Lakhiani, the founder of Mindvalley. “Think of your resolutions as longer-term life goals. Set a goal that is so big that it almost sounds unattainable, but it’s a lifestyle,” he continues. “If you’ve always struggled with your weight, and you want to become a bodybuilder, there is a good chance you will achieve that goal by setting deliberate intent to move in that direction.” So, instead of saying ‘lose 30 pounds or have a six-pack by this date’, use creative visualization on what an avid reader or a bodybuilder would do daily, and allow yourself to move towards that goal each day at your own speed, inhabiting that lifestyle.
Despite making resolutions, it’s essential to acknowledge that we’re always inherently ambivalent about any significant health or behavior change, says Jennifer Hettema, Ph.D., the senior clinical director at LifeStance Health. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a dirty word or feeling we should ignore. Instead, acknowledging our barriers and our limitations can be the push we need to transform them.
Hettema says some questions you might want to ask yourself and rehearse in your head or in conversation with a caring friend or family member are:
- Why do I want to make this change?
- What are the most important reasons for me to change?
- What strengths and resources can I draw on to make this change?
“Spending time deliberately thinking or talking about these things can boost motivation and help us to sustain change, even when we encounter challenges,” she adds.
Choose one word to guide your year.
When setting a resolution feels overwhelming or unattainable, break it down as small as you can into one word. Yep: one single word. Then with every choice, situation, struggle or experience you go through, you can turn to your word to guide you, says Jacqueline E. Oselen, a holistic life coach. “Use the word as your compass for setting priorities, making choices, and attracting opportunities that bolster your intention,” she says. Words can be anything like grace, hope, expansion, growth, happiness, yes, and so on.
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