With the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018, the approaching New Year comes with its own kind of bittersweet anticipation. It’s a time to reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead. With the closing of the holiday season hustle and bustle it is the perfect time to start fresh, put your goals into motion, to step away from habits that aren’t serving you and establish habits that DO.
With the idea that we’re starting new and moving forward, the New Year becomes a turbulent time of personal growth. Setting fitness, wellness, career, relationship and personal goals as a New Year’s resolution is a great step the vast majority of us take towards putting that personal growth into motion.
**Cue groans and self-care bullsh*t eyerolls. Running and screaming all the way to the gym, dry January, gluten free, sugar free, vegan, woo woo self-help nonsense.***
Roll your eyes all you want. Tell me all about failed New Year’s Resolutions and point me in the direction of every other click bate article with vague advice flooding your feed at this time.
Just kidding, I already read them all.
Snarkiness aside, in all seriousness I really believe that setting goals for yourself with the intention of self-improvement and personal growth is a REALLY positive way to start the New Year. Especially if the previous year posed some challenges. It’s a great time to reflect on and identify what didn’t work, or wasn’t helpful; and it’s a chance to appreciate those things for what they were, what you learned from them, and then a chance to figure out what does work for you, what is helpful to you.
I had a few epic fails of New Year’s resolutions, to the point that they’re pretty comical. Have I ever beat myself up about them? No, but I do know that a lot of people do. In the past couple of years I’ve made a habit of writing out my goals, and I’ve learned A LOT about writing out my goals.
I’ve learned writing out your goals is not as simple as it seems, writing out your goals is a great way to put them into action, and there IS an art to creating healthy, achievable goals that will set you up for success. And no. I’m not talking about setting the bar lower for yourself, but I am encouraging you to change your language when it comes to setting your resolutions, to think thoroughly about the intention behind them, and to seriously consider what steps need to be taken when it comes to making them a reality.
Let’s break this down and look a little more closely at this. Say your resolution is to lose 20 pounds.
What’s your language?
When it comes to how we speak to ourselves and others I cannot emphasize enough how much it shapes our experiences, exchanges, thoughts, feelings, relationships, literally everything. It wasn’t until recently I became incredibly aware of this, and honestly, it’s made writing very challenging for me as of late. When thinking about your resolutions take a step back and really look at the tone and nature of your words and thoughts. Are they loving and supportive in nature? What do they imply? Are they self-deprecating? Do they hold you to some sort of expectation?
My advice. “Be impeccable with your word.” It’s the first of the Four Agreements, sooooooooo I’d say it’s pretty freakin’ important. If your words are anything but loving and supportive, ditch them. If your words and thoughts are self-deprecating, imply that you’re not good enough the way you are, or are self-limiting, how can you ever expect to make anything you desire a reality?
Make the change.
Instead of saying:
“I want/need/have to lose 20 pounds.”
“I’m so fat/ugly/unattractive I need to lose 20 pounds.”
Say something like:
“I could really benefit in multiple areas of my life and think I would really be more comfortable and healthier 20 pounds lighter, I’m ready to make a change.”
What’s your intention?
Okay your New Year’s resolution is to lose 20 pounds, so your intention is to lose weight, but why is losing 20 pounds important to you? Is your intention to lose weight for aesthetic reasons? Is it to boost your confidence? Is it to improve your overall health? Or your energy levels? Is it because you’ve always looked a certain way and over time you don’t look the same? Is it to impress someone else? Is it for you? All of the above?
I would never ask you to justify why you want what you want, but it’s important to be really clear about why your resolutions matter to you and why you’re embarking on them. When it comes down to working towards your resolutions knowing exactly WHY you’re doing what you’re doing will help you stay motivated and focused.
Tread lightly. This concept of returning to your intention to stay motivated can go either way. See above advice about being careful with your language.
But also ask yourself, where is your intention coming from?
A place of love? A place of abundance? From a genuine desire to improve multiple areas of your life? Or is it coming from a place of lacking? Is it a way of punishing yourself for indulging, or choosing convenience? Is it feeding a need for instant gratification? Or does it set you up for long term growth?
Keep in mind the reason you’re asking yourself these questions IS NOT a means of holding yourself to judgement, but rather a means of being really honest with yourself, which I can say from experience is definitely not always easy to do. A positive, genuine intention that comes from a loving, abundant place typically encourages habit changing behaviors that set you up for success. An intention born out of a place of discontent or lacking or punishment usually feeds the need for instant gratification, sets ridiculous unattainable expectations, promotes an all or nothing attitude, and makes for an overly disciplined not sustainable way of living. Which brings me to my next point.
What steps need to be taken to make your resolutions a reality?
You want to lose 20 pounds, what lifestyle choices are you going to make that will help you lose those 20 pounds and keep them off? Are you going to start small in your quest for weight loss by gradually decreasing your caloric intake and gradually increasing your exercise? Are you slowly going to make simple swaps for healthier options until it becomes second nature? Or did you figure that if you drank a gallon of water every day, deprived yourself of carbs, loaded up on protein shakes, and forced yourself to rack up the miles on the treadmill 6 times a week that the weight would magically melt away and you would be happier and better.
It’s okay if in the back of your mind you really were thinking that, we are all guilty of taking short cuts time to time seeking instant results. The thing about taking shortcuts and hitting the treadmill and eating only salads 6 times a week is that this overly disciplined approach will inevitably lead to burnout. It's my belief that the most common reason for failed New Year’s resolutions lies in our tendency to get a little overzealous and bite off more than we can chew. In the hype that surrounds the holiday and in the age of the seemingly inescapable messages portrayed in the media that we should constantly be bettering ourselves it’s hard not to be a little overly ambitious. So what's next if you are super ambitious and have big goals?
Well my friend, don't for a minute believe that you are destined to fail; and whatever you do, whatever you're seeking this 2018 don't squash your goals or set the bar lower. But DO have a plan, one in which starts small and slowly progresses. One in which allows for setbacks, mistakes, small victories, change in direction, and for LIFE to happen in between. And if you don't know where to start get some help! Saving up for a house, a trip, paying off the rest of your student loans? Speak with a financial advisor. Looking to shape up your eating habits? Consult a registered dietitian. Looking to get in shape? Find a reputable trainer, or a group class, or activity you enjoy. Looking to start running? Join a community running club. Whatever your resolutions are you do not need to embark on them alone. In fact recruiting help will not only provide you with more resources and information but working with other people will help hold you accountable and keep you on track. It is SO much more enjoyable than the overly disciplined, all-or-nothing approach.
I cannot promise that choosing specific language, having a clear intention, and a plan is a fool-proof approach, but it's a start. It's a means of carefully and mindfully putting you resolutions into action in a way that won't leave you frustrated and disappointed, but rather hopeful, positive and a step closer to where you want to be.
Wishing nothing but the best for all of you this 2018,