The New Year is a natural time for reflection, for taking stock of where we’ve been and looking ahead to where we’d like to be. More often than not, we are critical of the past and overwhelmed by the prospect of making real change, so despite our best intentions our New Year’s resolutions often fail before Valentine’s Day. That doesn’t mean real change isn’t possible, though. While New Year’s resolutions may not be worth the paper they are written on, there are effective strategies for incorporating positive change into your life this year.
Start with what is already good.
Instead of looking back at all the things that didn’t happen or that went wrong over the past year, start by making a list of your accomplishments and what went right. If you do find yourself thinking about the negatives, try to reframe them in a productive way that gets beyond regret or blame. What did you learn from the experience that will help you going forward? Who showed up for you in an unexpected way? What resources did you (or could you now) find within yourself to help you get through? What new opportunities came (or could come) out of the disappointment?
Understand your motivation
Our resolutions often fail because they aren’t in sync with what truly resonates with us. Why do you want to lose weight, be in a relationship, change jobs, make more money, travel more… or any number of things we typically feel compelled to do? Is it because it’s what your parents, your friends, or society believes is right for you? Take some time to think about what you really want. Forget about what you think is possible, and simply put your attention on what makes you feel happy, empowered, peaceful, and connected.
Design your vision
Vision boards are great physical reminders of what we want to see in our lives. There are several ways to create one, but how you use it can make the difference between keeping you on track and creating yet another distraction.
A vision board is a picture you create (using photos and empowering phrases that show what you want to achieve) and then put in a prominent place (i.e. next to your desk or by your bathroom mirror) in order to keep your goals top of mind. Proponents advise making the board as specific as possible about what you want in one or more areas of your life, so that you can fully visualize having whatever it is. For example, instead of general statements such as “I want to be happier” or “I want to make more money,” use the board to show what that would actually look (and feel) like. Is it a new house, a better car, a romantic relationship, travel, a certain job? Include images that clearly picture the life you want. Let your imagination go and don’t worry about how you will get there. Simply accept that it is possible.
Combine your vision with action
Even baby steps count. Small actions every day can eventually add up to big results. When you are faced with a choice, go with the option that moves you closer to or at least in the direction of your vision. And keep in mind that not choosing is also a choice, but it doesn’t create any forward momentum.
If your vision is too specific, you may miss opportunities to get what you want because they don’t look exactly like the picture in your head (or on your vision board). The more you can let the journey unfold, and appreciate where you are right now, the shorter the distance to happiness and positive change becomes.
Be kind to yourself
Getting to your goal is rarely a straight line. Setbacks will happen, but how you view them can greatly impact where you end up. When something doesn’t work out as you’d hoped, or you backslide, see this as an opportunity to reaffirm your intention, to redefine your goals, or to move in a direction you hadn’t considered before.
Provided here are just a sample of strategies you might try, but there are countless tips for reframing your experiences, thoughts, and feelings to fit your aspirations for the here and now, as well as the year ahead and beyond. As is relevant in so many other aspects of life, what works for one person will not always (sometimes ever) work for another. The trick is sampling a variety to find what best suits you. Therapists can make idyllic guides when it comes to reflecting on your experiences and wanting to bring positive change into your life. If you are interested in more information, please call the Maria Droste Access Center at 303-867-4600.