It’s 2018, and time to begin the obligatory resolution discussion. With the new year comes hope that things will finally be different. You will finally lose the weight, finally stop smoking, finally do the things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t. But the reality is that January 1, 2018 is just another day. The clock striking midnight will not magically transform you into the person you’ve always wanted to be without goal-setting.
We all know this cognitively, but the idea of having a fresh start is so alluring that it can draw us in regardless. Let’s be real for a second, most resolutions don’t last more than a few days, maybe weeks, and then you are hit with the hard reality that you’re still imperfect, still human. This is because we expect to be able to will ourselves into being different because the year is different. But if we were able to do that, wouldn’t we already have done it? If changing our habits was as easy as resolving to do so, wrangling ourselves by our own willpower, wouldn’t we all be perfect and perfectly happy with ourselves?
Change begins with “resolving” to change, but it needs much more fuel and substance to carry it out fully. You need a plan. You need support. You need substance more than willpower.
In order to begin planning, you must set a goal or goals that you would like to achieve. Now, all goals are not created equal. I’m sure you’ve heard of “SMART” goals:
This is the anatomy of a good goal. For example, a bad goal would be “I’m going to work out more in 2018 to hopefully lose weight.” Good goals could be: “I’m going to exercise for 1 hour a day, four days a week for the next month” (short-term). “I will be able to run a 7-minute mile by April” (medium-term). “I will sign up for and run a half-marathon in December” (long-term). SMART goals are good goals because you know
- what your goal is
- you can achieve it
- when you want to achieve it
This sort of structure is essential, because when your goals are ambiguous several things are true. You may never know if you’ve achieved them or not. If they’re too difficult you will never achieve them. Success is extremely important in motivating you towards more success!
Break It Down
Once you have your SMART goals set, and I would suggest having at least one short term, medium term, and long term goal, the next step is breaking them down into manageable chunks. Start with where you are, consider your goal (where you want to be), and then decide what steps fall into the middle area. To continue the above example, for the goal of exercising 1 hr/day 4 days/week, the first step could be to join a gym, find work-out DVDs, sign up for personal training, buy a bicycle, or find walking/running trails (maybe even a partner to run with!). Next, you could set a schedule for yourself of when you want to exercise during the week. For the goal of running a half-marathon, you may start by finding one to sign up for, and then looking up a training plan online to begin scheduling that out for yourself. The fun bonus of setting these mini-goals within the bigger goals is you get little doses of success along the way that keep you motivated and give you a feeling of accomplishment.
Once you’ve broken your big goals into steps and figured out your plan, start thinking about potential obstacles. If you know you’re not a morning person, you could plan to work out in the afternoon or evening or make a solid plan to get you out of bed on time. If you know you’ll struggle to motivate yourself to go to the gym, you could work out a system of rewards for going (preferably not food-based rewards though). Or, you could ask someone close to you to hold you accountable (someone you know will follow through and not let you get away with it!). This form of support-building, of surrounding yourself with community is an integral part of motivating yourself to achieve the goals you’ve set. You know yourself, you know your weaknesses and what has stopped you from succeeding in the past, so capitalize on that knowledge and problem-solve before the problems even exist!
Go For It!
Now you can finally start putting your plan into action! Start when you’re ready. It doesn’t have to be January 1st, it doesn’t have to be a Monday, it doesn’t even have to start in the morning. All that matters is that you start. And once you’ve started, don’t stop! Give yourself permission to slip up and to fail. It will happen, but don’t let one small failure ruin everything. “Well, I didn’t work out last week so I may as well skip this week too. I’ve lost all my progress”. In fact, failure can be an opportunity to grow and learn. Then discuss things over with a trusted support person or a professional counselor. The only way you can truly fail is if you stop trying.
If you’d like to finally start making some real change and would like some support, I’d love to help walk you through the process! Please call me at 940-222-8703×705 or email at LauraL@acorncounseling.services, or just schedule an appointment online! I look forward to hearing from you!