New Year’s Resolutions:
How’s it going??
It’s a little while after the New Year rolled in and I’m checking in on how you’re doing. It has likely been several weeks ago that you made your New Year’s resolutions. They are a funny thing, resolutions are. And believe it or not, they have a long standing history. It is believed that the ancient Babylonians were the forerunners of New Year’s resolutions some 4000 years ago. As a part of a 12-day celebration, they pledged their allegiance to the newly appointed or the reigning king. They also made promises to the gods to repay debts, and return items they’d borrowed. They believed that if they kept their word, the gods would reward them with favor in the upcoming year. In Rome, there was a similar practice. Julius Caesar adjusted the calendar to make Jan 1st the beginning of the new year (somewhere around 46 B.C.). Named for Janus, a two-headed god believed to symbolically represent a deity that can simultaneously look to the future and the past, the Romans made sacrifices at the onset of the new year and promises of good conduct for the upcoming year. Christians took up the practice about 1740. Most popular amongst African American denominations, the “watch night” services are spent praying and making resolutions for the upcoming year.
Though flanked in religious history, these days most people’s new year’s resolutions are about one’s self-improvement. We make promises (to ourselves) to lose weight, save money, go back to school, finally write that book, work on your credit, buy a house, and a myriad of other things that we tell ourselves all in the name of…what? Resolutions can be a fantastic way to mark a fresh start; a time that we use to push ourselves to be our best and go after it with gusto. On the other hand, though made with the best intentions, new year’s resolutions have a way of sometimes causing undue stress that we impose on ourselves.there are ways to ensure that pressure of new year’s resolutions don’t overtake us. Let’s get into it.
NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTION CHECK IN
Motivation: Assess your motivation for whatever the resolutions are that you made? Are you wanting to improve you for you? Or have you, like so many of us, me included, given in the pressures of society that we should be “more?” Let’s face it. Even though there are so many attempts for magazines, television shows and commercials to be more inclusive, we can’t deny the subtle (and not so subtle) pressures to be “perfect.” No one is perfect. And the pursuit of such is futile. However, that’s a different blog. My only goal here is to challenge you to think about your ambitions and to make sure that your motives are pure, and only derived from your own desires for you to be who you want to be.
S.M.A.R.T Goals: After you have done some reflection and determined that your goals are only your own, make sure that the tasks you’ve set out to achieve are attainable. So much of the “ugh” feeling about new year’s resolutions is that after the excitement wears off, the thing we’re left with just seems large and looming. And that’s why the same resolutions keep making it to the list year after year. They’re too big to really get done. You may have heard this term before, but creating S.M.A.R.T goals is a way to ensure that you are on the right track for achieving your new resolutions.
S: SPECIFIC: Make sure that your goals are specific and narrow for effective planning.
M: MEASURABLE: Make sure that your progress is measurable. And be flexible enough to re-evaluate when necessary.
A: ATTAINABLE: Make sure that your goals can be achieved within a specific time frame.
R: RELEVANT: Your goals should align with your values and long-term objectives.
T: TIME – Set a realistic, ambitious end-date for task prioritization and motivation.
It should be said here that these aren’t things you have to work out yourself. This would be a good time to add individual therapy to your priorities this year. In therapy, your therapist can help you create goals and help to keep you accountable for achieving them.
HAVE A CUSTOMIZED PLAN: That may sound simplistic, but a good plan is the key to having success at anything. A part of the S.M.A.R.T goal system is creating a plan that is workable and customized for your life and lifestyle. For example, if you’re planning on training for a marathon, there are built-in SMART goals. However, if you work from 7a-7p, your plan must account for when your training can happen and that takes into account that your available hours are pre-dawn and post-sunset. If you’re not an extreme morning person, how can you adjust your plan to accommodate the things you know about yourself that cannot be easily overcome/overlooked, or maybe shouldn’t. You know you best. So you, and possibly your therapist, are in a good position to help you craft a plan that is best for you that honors your goals.
BE SELF-COMPASSIONATE: The truth is, after you have studied yourself to make sure that outside influences haven’t negatively impacted your ability to choose goals for yourself based on your own values and ideals that help you to live your best life, AND after you have measured out and created S.M.A.R.T. goals for yourself AND after you have sought out a therapist to aid, AND after you have created a customized plan AND begun your plan, it may not go as you had thought. We’re human and failing is a human condition and natural state of affairs at some point for all of us. This is when and how we learn to be self-compassionate. In order to succeed, you have to be able to take hits on the chin, and allow them to strengthen your resolve to keep going. Don’t spend time wallowing in self-pity. Rather, accept the setback and go again.
It may not have been on your list at first, but perhaps you should consider adding a therapist to your list goals for this year. I’ve already mentioned several areas where a therapist, your own individual therapist, can be of support to your new year’s resolution goals. However, at any point in the year, therapists can be instrumental conduits for helping you to achieve goals. Whether you make them on Jan 1st or March 18th, therapy offers an unbiased partnership with the goal of the best version of you in mind. Setbacks aren’t always easy to bounce back from. Sometimes it is challenging to not beat up on ourselves for what we perceive as failure. It could also be the case that carving out a self-image that is clear and what you want is proving to be a harder feat than you thought. That’s ok. A skilled therapist can help you navigate all of those things too. As always, this isn’t a play on words or a ploy to get you into our offices. But, if you need us, we’re here.