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Transitions can be tough – and New Year’s is no exception.
Over the years I have actually not been one to place much stock in New Year’s resolutions – I guess that’s why for me this process isn’t always as jarring or anxiety provoking as it is for some others. In addition to this usual lack of future planning, I believe that this is do in part to the busy-ness of this time of year, which can make any sort of introspection a rare occurrence.
While the commotion of the season and my own devil-may-care attitude may have protected me from some of the challenging feelings that are a normal part of transition (which New Year’s is), it also prevents me from participating in what can be a rewarding experience of reflection on the past year and dreaming about the year to come.
This year I actually have been trying to spend some time thinking about what I could improve in the New Year. For one thing, I want to start living my values more often. And in some cases this means first determining what my values are! So part of my New Year’s Resolution will be to schedule some regular time for introspection – so that reflecting and planning don’t go by the wayside.
For those of you who, like me, are new to really setting a New Year’s Resolution – or for those of you who have always done it, but perhaps always struggled to actually realize your goals – below are some recommendations from the APA on how to make the most of your New Year’s resolutions:
KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid
Okay, so that’s not exactly how they phrase it, but you get the idea. Start with baby steps, not giant leaps. You want to set a goal which is achievable, not impossible (or so grueling that it will just overwhelm you).
One Thing At A Time
If you try to change everything about yourself at once, you are less likely to succeed and more likely to just wind up disappointed. Focus on one goal and work to achieve it. Once you’ve achieved that goal – celebrate! And then set a new one. This can build momentum and keep you on track to achieve your dream.
Follow Madonna’s advice – find someone with whom you can share how you are feeling through the process. Whether it be a friend, support group, or a therapist, being honest about how you feel along your journey can help you to stay on track and will make for a healthier experience overall.
Strive For Excellence – Not Perfection
My therapist in college used to have to tell me this. Especially if you’re like me and have a natural tendency to have “black” and “white”, all or nothing thinking. Perfection doesn’t exist in this world, so you’re just setting yourself up for disappointment if you seek to achieve it. Instead, strive for excellence. No one expects you to do better than your best – you shouldn’t either.
Don’t Do It Alone
We’ve all heard the expression “it takes a village” but it can be easy to think that, as young (or older) adults, we should be able to do everything on our own – after all, isn’t that what being an independent adult is all about? However the reality is that when you have a team you can share your positive – and negative – experiences with, it can provide support which could be essential in helping you reach your goal. And my experience has been that most decent people want to help someone they care about improve their life. If your friends and family aren’t equipped to help you with your particular goal, or you are too embarrassed to approach them, consider seeking the help of a trained professional.
Have a Sense of Humor
This wasn’t on the APA’s list, but I believe it’s essential. It goes hand in hand with not getting hung up on perfection. We all make mistakes and experience set backs at time, so we might as well laugh about it when it happens. As I was told growing up, “You gotta laugh or you’ll cry”.
With these tips in mind, I wish you luck with your New Year’s Resolutions – and if you haven’t come up with one yet, it’s never too late. Positive change is something we can strive for in each new moment. So with that – cheers!
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