There’s always room for improvement, right? Be it a nicer house, cultivating that relationship you always envisioned, or being a better parent, we can always strive to elevate higher. January is a prime time for change—that’s no secret. For some reason, January 1st calls to all of us to be a better version of ourselves. But honestly, we can make a change at any time and at any point in our lives, and it will have consequences moving us towards our goals or away from them. Many people use beginnings in time as motivation to start their transformation; like a fresh month, a new year, or the following Monday. They say, once Monday hits, I’ll start my diet or next year is the year I start getting massages. But think about it—what is stopping you from starting now? Why can’t you use your shortcomings as motivation to act now?
That’s your first step in choosing a goal. Understand when you are going to start working toward this goal. And if your answer isn’t now or as soon as possible, put yourself on the spot, and ask yourself why. If you are capable, just begin. Even if it’s the smallest step—take it now.
What to keep in mind when picking a resolution:
Why am I choosing this goal?
Think about whom you’re making this goal for. If it’s solely for anyone other than yourself, it’s time to reevaluate what you really want to work towards. Is my mom or husband pushing for this change or is it something I really want? A lot of times we make a goal because society thinks we should like being Supermom or shrink down to a size 4, but it may be something that doesn’t necessarily speak to us. So keep in mind whose life your living and how you want it to look.
Is my goal reasonable and realistic for my current state?
When thinking of change we always want the tasks to complete said goal in manageable proportions. Often, if the goal is too grand, we get discouraged and stop moving in a positive direction altogether. For example, saying “I want a mansion on the beach this year,” may be a lofty goal for some. Let’s say you have a $50,000 loan debt and your current job barely covers the bills, one might start smaller and build up to that dream home. So the steps toward acquiring that dream home would include, getting a job that pays $15,000 more a year, cutting back on unnecessary purchases and buying a fixer-upper or set aside $10,000 to place a down payment on a future home. You can always keep that ultimate dream home as a long-term goal but work with smaller measurable steps to get there.
Is your resolution from a place of love and kindness?
Sometimes our goals are punitive in nature or coming from a place of cynicism. Not only do we need to show love for others in our aspirations, but love for ourselves. Is the core belief of your goal because you think, “I am not good enough?” Or is it, “I am so amazing I have the power to do more because I deserve more?”
Allowing yourself some leniency will actually help you stick to your goals. Otherwise, you may fall off the wagon when you encounter bumps in the road.
Avoid restrictive goals.
I know, I know. I said that you should be specific and measurable in your tasks, but hear me out. If you’re trying to lose two pounds a week to lose an overall goal weight, allow yourself some wiggle room. It’s okay if you slip up, or that your diet is not strictly boiled chicken and steamed broccoli. Allowing yourself some leniency will actually help you stick to your goals. Otherwise, you may fall off the wagon when you encounter bumps in the road. Another example might be if you’re improving your relationship with your spouse and have a few fights. Don’t throw out the goal altogether and start looking for divorce attorneys. Change is a process; give it time and allow for those up and downs along the way.
Enjoy the journey.
It is not always about the end result. If you’re building a business this year, and you’re so focused on opening day or getting your ledger in the black, you will lose out on the beauty that is your daily achievements. You will miss the amazing personal growth that comes from those struggles. When you take time to appreciate the process, you grow, and it is easier to enjoy the journey. You view the whole goal differently, and the result is a happier you.
Accept who you are now.
This is another one that seems to contradict the very idea of change. As a team of therapists and life coaches, our job is to promote change and forward momentum. But our other job is acceptance, which is less commonly addressed. You are beautiful and unique at this moment right now. You are the only you, and that in itself is amazing. You may be thinking of the myriad of flaws you have right now, but those flaws are beautiful. Your mistakes and triumphs are a badge of honor from your journey through life, which is not easy for any of us. So be proud of you.
“I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect—they are much more interesting.” -Marc Jacobs
Okay so now that you have thought long and hard about your goals and what you want to change, what’s next? Change is difficult for any one of us. We are creatures of habit. As I am sure you are aware of by now, habits are really hard to break. Let’s call that the understatement of the year.
For any kind of real lasting change to occur we need to feel uncomfortable.
We have every good intention to stop yelling at our kids, smoking, letting others disrespect us, or going on those late night trips to the drive-thru. It is like a siren song for crying out loud. But we just keep getting pulled back to our old and comfortable ways. Unfortunately, that’s not—comfort. For any kind of real lasting change to occur we need to feel uncomfortable. You have to stop surrounding yourself with the familiar day-to-day actions you are used to and try something that is different. It is like Einstein said, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So the first thing you need to realize for lasting change is that you will feel uncomfortable. If you are trying to save your marriage, you will feel hurt, challenged, misunderstood and pushed. There will be times when you’re looking for the exit and doubting your reasoning for change in the first place. You will go back and forth from old unhealthy and ineffective patterns to pushing yourself to try harder. Many times you will do pretty much anything to get back to that warm place of comfort with fluffy clouds of normal and fields of the humdrum routine that you need so dearly. So I say this one more time, so there’s no confusion, discomfort is required for change.