Hey there everyone,
It's been a minute since I posted. Ironically that goes along with the theme of this blog. When I started this blog, I created a very unrealistic expectation of myself to publish significantly more often than I could handle. My initial goal was once a week. That quickly turned into once a month. Then the next thing I knew, it was 2023, and the last time I wrote a blog was last year. (Sorry, I couldn't resist. Bad dad joke.)
Unfortunately, this is a widespread thing for many of us in the goals we set for ourselves. This is a big reason why New Year's resolutions are so difficult to maintain throughout the year. A new year can be the perfect time to turn a new page and start to consider changes you want to make. Unfortunately, we often see the new year as a blank slate, a fresh start to change bad habits and establish healthier routines that challenge us physically, mentally, socially, and intellectually.
Life's many milestones motivate change within ourselves. We experience this at various points, causing us to feel a need to change our behaviors with each new beginning. This is what researchers call "the fresh start effect." 1 According to this theory, we become much more likely to start at least working towards our new goals following these landmarks in time. However, other researchers say that only 12% of those who set New Year's resolutions report achieving their goal. 2 That means more than 80% of resolutions end in failure and disappointment.
So many of us set strict new year's resolutions without much consideration to how this aligns with our values and ensures success in our lives, ultimately adding more pressure and anxiety and damaging our self-esteem. With social media trends quickly on the rise, institutions such as new years resolutions, "new year, new me" mentalities, and "this is my year" mindsets encourage the notion that our most important goals and desires in life are instantly and permanently changed as of January 1st each year. At its center, this concept of progress, change, and personal development requires curated time, planning, and, more than all else, self-awareness, patience, and grace. Yet, with each new year, we willingly and readily set ourselves up for failure, continually comparing ourselves to where we think we "should be" or where society and social media encourage us to be instead of where we want to be.
This year, I, too, fell captive to toxic comparisons and unrealistic goals for myself and my business. So, in closing 2022, I had to take a hard look at myself and my motives for setting these goals. Were they genuinely aligned with the person and therapist I am and want to become? Or was I spending too much time comparing myself to others' image of success? In considering these questions, I quickly realized that I'd failed at recognizing my wants and needs in balancing having a business and running a therapy practice, and finding peace and happiness in my own life and mental health.
Aligning our goals with our values is one of the biggest forms of self-love by focusing on who we are and who we want to be instead of where we think we should be based on our favorite influencers' Instagram feeds. Looking at your long-term goals is a significant first step. Let's take a step back for a moment and identify how we want/need our lives to shift to best align with our values vs. looking for short-term solutions and instantaneous fixes. It's important to consider where your life is heading and why when setting new goals. Your values are specific to you. Your goals should be too. Whether it's spending time with family, starting a new hobby, or developing healthier living habits, make sure individual values are at the foundation of what you're working toward in this phase of your life.
Now, let's focus on some tips to set realistic goals that help us live happier, healthier lives with confidence and motivation. Here we go:
Limit your goals
If you're like me, you might get really excited about your reaching your goals and try to do all the things to finally get on track to living your best life. This is an easy way to set yourself up for failure. Trust me. Instead, try to limit it to just one or two resolutions. Remember creating habits takes time. And much effort. Give yourself some grace.
Be realistic with yourself and ensure your goal is attainable.
SMART GOALS! What is a SMART goal? Well, let me tell you. SMART goals are S-specific, M-measurable, A-achievable, R-realistic, and T-timely. I want to focus more on finding balance and peace in my personal life and mental health as a therapist. It may be realistic for me to consider setting aside some time to practice healthy coping throughout my work day and additional time off for personal space and separation. If I set a goal to take 1 extra day off every month, I've made my goal specific and measurable (1 day), achievable and realistic, and timely (once every month). The same concept applies if I also set a goal to practice 30 minutes of healthy coping between sessions every day. SMART goals can be a great tool to increase the likelihood of success in reaching your goals.
Outline a plan for your goals
Sometimes it can be helpful to set daily, weekly, and monthly goals to help you reach a larger purpose. This can even be broken down into a specific schedule that you can revisit throughout the year to best ensure your plan to succeed. For example, if I want to set aside 30 minutes daily for healthy coping and take off 1 additional day a month, how can I best create a plan or schedule to ensure my success? Well, my schedule often changes and shifts to my and my client's needs each week. So, it may be helpful for me each Sunday to look at my plan for the coming week and create a schedule every day to allow for this time with specific activities identified beforehand. Or even scheduling my time ahead of my client's scheduled sessions and setting a healthy boundary in prioritizing my personal time.
Try out a resolutions journal!
You know I love a good journal. Here are some links to some of my favorites.
+ Wellness Journal by Papier
+ Self-Journal by BestSelf Co
+ Finisher's journal by Finisher Secrets
Most importantly, always remember to be kind and patient with yourself in working towards these goals. Progress is not a linear process. Celebrate yourself and every step, big or small, in this journey to becoming a better version of YOU.
Dai H, Milkman KL, Riis J. The fresh start effect: Temporal landmarks motivate aspirational behavior. Manag Sci. 2014;60(10):2381-2617. doi:10.1287/mnsc.2014.1901
Sherwin , K. (2016, April 24). Fresh start effect: How to motivate users with New Beginnings. Nielsen Norman Group. Retrieved January 1st, 2023.