New Year, new blah…The fact that I put off writing this blog entry (New Year’s inspirational) until the end of January shows my lack of interest for hallmark catchphrases and societally forced transformations. Now, I know I’m coming off as somewhat pessimistic, but I’m the kind of person that thinks we should be seeking growth and transformation in our daily lives and not simply at the beginning of the year. Most of us sprint towards desired changes until we’re faced with obstacles and challenges that our new routines bring about, and in no time we find ourselves right back where we started. Let me back up a bit and say that I do think there’s something special in regards to the hope and inspiration that a new year brings. For some people it represents a fresh start or a clean slate. If you’re someone that finds that spark for change due to this time of the year, then more power to you. Maybe I should be more embracing of this annual gift.
In treatment we have a scientific phrase used to describe the catalyst for change or universal phenomenon that we refer to as, “whatever works.” So, if kicking off the New Year generates newly found motivation in you to _____________ (insert New Year’s Resolution), then that’s the antidote to ambivalence. Below I have provided a rather commonsensical, yet overlooked, “how-to” guide that (hopefully) may assist in following through with your New Year’s Resolutions for 2016. “May the odds be ever in your favor.”- Katniss Everdeen (I think).
Comprehensive guide to achieving your New Year’s Resolution goals:
1.) Slow and steady wins the race. Set small, measurable, bite size goals that can be reasonably achieved within 1-3 months. This will help you to build off of your daily progress which in turn will provide additional motivation to stick with your plan as you meet short term goals and continue to raise the bar. Example: Instead of saying, “I want to get in shape by summer.” Try, “I’m going to exercise three times a week for the next month and aim to lose 10 pounds.”
2.) Your language matters. There have been some interesting articles that I’ve read throughout the years in regards to how our irrational thoughts can prevent us from taking risks and challenging our comfort zone. Negative thoughts, intrusive thoughts, and self-defeating attitudes can be toxic for anyone who is attempting to make changes in their lives. Even when we have the motivation to try something new and dare to take a leap of faith, our inner critic is right there to remind us of why we shouldn’t. Silencing our inner critic can be challenging, but one effective way to combat that pesky inner voice is by mindfully speaking to ourselves with the wisdom and encouragement that we would give to our best friends. Example: Instead of allowing your friend to dwell on past failures after experiencing a set back on a new business venture, it would be more constructive to challenge their negative attitude by helping them focus on past accomplishments that were only met after overcoming adversity. It is essential that we channel this stream of positivity and affirmation in moments of “self-talk” in order to silence the voice of self-defeat.
3.) Make it fun! This is a big one for me. If the resolution you’re looking to make involves a significant lifestyle change, then it is essential that you have a fun time doing it. We humans love our habits, and man, is it difficult to lose our comforts no matter how destructive or maladaptive they may be. Example: For some of us that might be finding the simple pleasures of adjusting to an early morning routine and for others it could be finding a creative exercise to stay in shape if running or biking are not your cup of tea. The takeaway is this: the more fun or pleasure we get from the activity the more likely our body will crave that we repeat it.
Ronald Christian Rivera, LMSW
Leonard Street Counseling Center