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Reflections Versus Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. As we move into a new year, we are often inundated with social media posts about resolutions to eat better, exercise more, set boundaries with people, lose weight, among many other different things. While the creators of this content may very well be well-meaning in their intentions, these posts can leave you feeling badly about yourself and encourage social comparisons. It’s ok if you don’t find posts like these motivating. What’s important is that you do what feels right and healthy for you. It’s ok if you don’t have any new years resolutions at all! You might be thinking at this point: Well, isn’t it important to have goals for myself? Yes, absolutely it is, but it’s also important that you take your mindset into account when planning to achieve them. If you set “resolutions” for yourself, just make sure you’re being mindful and intentional about them. This weeks blog will help you to do just that.

Aren’t they the same thing?

This may seem like splitting hairs, but the language you use when describing yourself and your goals are important. And culturally, there are some differences in connotations to the word “reflection” and “resolution.” Reflecting encourages you to take an honest curious look at your actions and mindset that have contributed to where you are currently, whereas the connotation with “resolution” sort of sets you up for a succeed and fail mentality. This may motivate you, but sometimes it’s not helpful. Furthermore, here are some reasons why many resolutions don’t stick. Most people’s new year’s resolutions entail taking better care of themselves, and then sometimes when they have a slip up, they characterize that as “failing.” At that point it becomes all to easy to stay discouraged and not try anymore. Try to be reflective about the changes you want to make in your life, and if you set resolutions…consider setting the types of resolutions listed below.

Reflection Ideas

If you want to make changes in your life, here are some questions that encourage self-reflection to help get you started.  

  • What do I value?
  • What do I want/need?
    • How much effort am I willing to put into this? Time? Money?
  • What has worked well for me in 2019?
  • What hasn’t worked well for me in 2019?
  • What do I want to keep doing?
  • What do I want to change? Why?
    • Is it because my authentic self wants this change … or do I feel as though I should want this change?
    • Where might these “should” messages come from?
  • What are some manageable steps I can take toward reaching my goal?
  • What do I have to do to make this change sustainable if it is a lifestyle change?

Being self-reflective is a practice that you can become better with. Reflecting can be sort of an on-going process, whereas resolutions are simply your decision whether to do something or not. Resolutions are more finite. For example: I will stop smoking in 2020. That’s a great resolution, but how will you go about doing that? Cold turkey? Do you get too discouraged to continue trying if you have a slip up with a zero tolerance for error mindset? What will you do instead of smoking when you crave it?

Essentially, simply setting a resolution without reflecting first is like setting out on a road trip without a map. Are you good with maps? Do you need a GPS? Landmarks? Without some self-reflection, sticking to any goals or resolutions you have for yourself will be much harder.

Ideas for Reframing Resolutions 

It may seem as though this blog is dogging on new year’s resolutions and that isn’t the intent. The intent is to encourage you to be mindful about how you think about the changes you want to see in your life and how you think about your own actions, progress, and setbacks. Here are some overall resolutions to consider for 2020 that will likely apply to any goal you have for yourself.

  • I will treat myself with kindness.
  • I will encourage myself to keep trying even if I have a setback.
  • I will not label setbacks as failures and I will not label myself as a failure.
  • I give myself permission to make mistakes.
  • I give myself permission to be imperfect.

Do you see a difference in attitude and content with the resolutions listed above to what you typically see in resolutions from people? These resolutions are rooted in change, but also encouragement. They are not set up in a pass/fail dichotomy. They are not formulating your change process into good or bad. They are facilitating your change process to continue even after setbacks. And everyone deserves that type of encouragement. So if you really want to lose weight in 2020, that’s a fine goal to have, but please also pair that goal with one of the above resolutions to help frame your mindset in a positive and compassionate way.

Extra Support

If you recognize that you tend to have a negative mindset when it comes to yourself and your efforts in making changes, counseling can be a great tool on your change journey. Your therapist can help you to reframe some of your unhelpful, and likely unrealistic, negative thoughts about yourself that keep you blocked from making healthy changes in your life. Schedule an appointment with Angelus today to help you along your self-reflective process and subsequent changes in your life. Remember, the best type of life change is a sustainable one, and counseling can help you integrate new practices into your thinking and behavior.  

Blog Credit: Natalie Drozda, MA, LPC is a PH.D student in Counseling Education and Supervision at Duquesne University & therapist at Angelus Therapeutic Services