How to Move from Resolutions to Actions
We all have the tendency to focus on the changing of the year as a signal for changes within ourselves. Whether that is because of the significance of an old year done and a new one beginning or just that it signals the end of the holiday season and the rush back to the real world I am not fully sure. What I do know is that every feed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram is full of quotes and comments celebrating the end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019.
However, as the clock changed from 11:59 PM on December 31, 2018, to 12:01 AM January 1, 2019, what actually happened in those two minutes? There was no cosmic reset button hit on the universe, yet we all tend to feel more hopeful looking ahead. People are making list of goals and resolutions; including changes in diet, exercise, social interactions, school money, and careers. Some identify travel goals, hobbies, and books to read. While others swear off bad habits and toxic relationships that held them back in 2018 (and maybe 2017, 2016, 2015, etc). So for the first few weeks of January you will see more people at the gym, people eating less, and people restraining from social media. All these changes are fantastic and if stuck to could make major changes in people’s lives. The problem lies near the end of January, when the motivation and energy for change starts to dissipate and people fall back into old habits and mindsets and lose track of that hopefulness and drive.
Resolutions and goals are great but without a solid plan and feedback system to make us accountable they will quickly fall by the wayside. A quick Google search give you hundreds of tips and tricks to “change your life in the new year”. Again, many of these are great, IF we can stick to them.
How to turn goals into actions:
- Write them down, there is something about paper and pen that makes us put more thought and effort into our plans
- Be careful not to make them all about stopping or starting habits, set some goals for self care and emotional, physical, and spiritual nurture as well.
- Make them specific – goals like “I’m going to laugh more and stress less” are great, but what does that mean? How do you measure it? What do you need to put in place to make it happen?
- Break it down into steps: Goals like Lose Weight work better as: Increase water intake to 64 oz a day, add 20 minutes of walking 5 days a week, take the steps instead of the elevator, and/or decrease eating out to twice a week, etc.
- Schedule it in! If it is important to you, then you need to make it a priority. Write it into your date book, set alerts on your phone. Choose days/times that don’t directly conflict with other areas of interest. For example; Read one chapter a night before bed, have your alarm go off at 9:00 PM to remind you it’s time to get settled down and pick up your book. Only give yourself 1-2 ‘passes’ a week to change or cancel your goal activity. Check it off on your planner daily so that you can visually see yourself sticking to this new “habit”
- Give yourself realistic, but concrete timelines. Be cautious of the extreme “be a size 4 by Easter” and aim for what is “reasonable but challenging”
- Celebrate milestones: when you complete some of the steps along your path, allow yourself to feel proud of it without it getting away from you.
- Create a support team: people tend to stick to things more when they have a partner or cheering section encouraging them when things get rough. Share your goals with a supportive and encouraging person and check in with them regularly about how you are both doing. Knowing that someone will be checking adds a positive social pressure that can be a motivating factor.
What if I know what I want to change but don’t know how?
- Don’t go it alone. Talk to someone about what isn’t working in your life and what you want to be different. With two end points you can create a map of how to get there.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you don’t have a supportive friend or family member that’s ok. That may actually be part of the problem you are trying to solve. There are formal and informal options available;
- 7Cups.com is a great site that has “listeners” available to help you think through and problem solve your situation
- Church/religious support groups are often available in your local community
- Schedule with a counselor to help you with the process of not only defining your goals and a path to get there, but also to give you that unbiased support and feedback along the way.
- Remember that your goals may change as you start exploring your problems, that’s normal. The better you understand what needs to change, the more specific you can be about the steps to get there.
Some of our Therapist’s Goals for 2019:
- Travel to at least three new places
- Read one book a month
- Improve health: increase water, lose 10 lbs, take vitamins
- Add in one fun activity weekly
- Commit to going out with friends at least twice a month
- Attend at least 2 new trainings