It's that time of year again! The holiday festivities are almost over, and as the buzz from the joy (and chaos) wears off, the guilt from some of the choices we've made during the season (and perhaps during the year) sets in.
For many, the New Year is seen as an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and try again. To be fair, it's not just holdiay guilt that propels us to making New Year's resolutions. In some cases the decisions made at the beginning of the year stem from periods of deep reflection coming out of significant, sometimes life-changing experiences. New Year's resolutions (or goals, or commitments...what do you call them?) are usually about positive changes towards self-improvement. And that's not a bad thing!
The challenge, however, is with sticking to them. As with any shiny new object, the novelty and sheen fade after a while, and before you know it you've gone completely off track. Unfortunately this often creates space for self-blame and guilt, which can be barriers to your progress.
So, here are a few tips to help you stay on track.
Change comes from an awareness of own needs. Sometimes changing poor habits are difficult to break because we are in denial about the problems and their impact. Having to confront that means also having to come face-to-face with the shame of acknowledgment, and this is why denial is easier. It doesn't feel as unpleasant. But denial also means that you are quieting the signals that could spur you into action. Don't be afraid to see yourself who you are - allow yourself to be vulnerable to the truth of what needs to change. When you do, your awareness will alert you to your needs, and prompt you to set goals to address them.
Speaking of goals...
Be realistic and manage your expectations
Another benefit of self-awareness is being able to set reasonable goals and expectations. You do this not only by being able to identify your areas of need, but also the resources and skill sets you actually do have to meet them. That way, you are able to foster motivation to propel your progress, and build on your successes. It helps to feel good about what you're able to achieve!
It also helps to break your goals down into "bite-sized" portions. But remember, sometimes you may need to adjust your goals or expectations of your performance based on the changing circumstances around you. Be patient with yourself.
Not meeting your goals can negatively impact your motivation, so it is important to ensure that they are practical, and can be met with the resources you have and/or have access to.
Identify what motivates you
People are motivated in different ways, and when it comes to sticking with your goals, it's important to know what will keep you going. There is external motivation - when that which motivates you is external to, or not controlled by yourself (eg. money, reward, recognition). Then there is internal motivation - when the reward and satisfaction lies within yourself, or within your control to provide (eg. good health, improved skills). Both types of motivation are good, and useful in meeting your goals. However, you may find that you will need to mix it up a little by having different motivating factors to reach the same goal.
For example, if you have a weight-loss goal, you may be motivated by the thought of fitting into a new dress you saw on the rack. However, you may also be motivated by the thought of having a healthier lifestyle through proper diet and exercise. But let's say that dress you had your eye on is no longer available, the external motivation has been removed. What does this mean for your overall goal? You may have to rely on your inner desire to lead a healthier lifestyle to keep you focused on reaching your goal.
We may not really notice it, but when it comes to our goals, our thoughts are often the biggest distractions, and can become major barriers to motivation and progress. We may get side-stracked by thoughts about our past - by regrets of not starting sooner, or that one poor choice we made. Or we may become daunted by the magnitude of the goal itself, and be crippled by thoughts of the future - how to get there.
To overcome this, as much as possible, stay present. Be mindful of your present reality - what you are experiencing in the here and now - including the task at hand. And as much as possible, only do one thing at a time. That way you are able to maintain focus only on the one task that matters for that moment in time. To help maintain your focus on the present, you can include tools such as having a visual focal point, background sounds, a fidget toy or some other tactile tool, frangrances (such as a scented candle, incense); use your senses to maintain a connection with the present.
You can do it!
As you start off a new year, whether it is health and fitness, self-care, learning a new skill or language, therapy - know that you are worthy of your goals, and you can reach them with the right resources and support.
If you would like to discuss your therapeutic needs, and would like to explore the possibility of starting therapy, feel free to contact me by calling 416-688-5274, or by booking a free initial consult at heartspringtherapy.ca/book-online.