New Year New You
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO CHANGE THIS YEAR?
Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions? How Has That Worked Out For You In The Past? Need Some Help? Find The Motivation To Make Changes So You Can Feel Good About Yourself In The New Year
As we kick off the new year, we always feel there is the chance of renewal, of a fresh start, and the idea we can make this year the best year ever. We approach the new year full of hope and good intention. Here is our opportunity to get things right and to thrive. At least that’s the hope.
We also feel the societal pressure to make new year’s resolutions. According to some estimates, only 8% of people actually stick to their new year’s resolutions. If you’re like me, I avoid them like the plague. It’s a recipe for disaster: overpromise and then underdeliver. Who wants to start out the year feeling like you’ve already failed?
Making Improvements is Still Possible
So how do you reconcile the desire to make improvements with not wanting to set yourself up for failure? By being very clear about what you’re trying to accomplish and being exceptionally realistic. If you want to lose weight, for example, you don’t say I’m going to lose 30 pounds by February. We all know there must be a lifestyle change and conscious choices need to be made and implemented to lose those pounds.
What wasn’t working for you last year, causing you distress? Maybe addressing something that didn’t go well will feel like an accomplishment this year. Or perhaps identifying something you want to tackle and seeing progress will enable you to feel successful. This may sound like an oversimplification, but it’s one thing to think about it and quite another to actually put it into practice. This is when the magic of science and art convene. Science means there will be action steps to take, and art means you will find the motivation and make it happen.
Let’s say you’d like to improve a current relationship in your life. Maybe it’s with your best friend or your partner. You can start by reflecting on what’s bothering you about the relationship. What exactly, has transpired to bring on this feeling of discomfort? Are you worried about something that hasn’t yet happened (or maybe never will)? Give yourself some time and space to be as objective as possible, without assigning blame to them or to yourself. There may be a history or pattern of interchanges that have elicited an emotional reaction in you, so try to identify what triggers this response. Just noticing one or more incidents will help clarify why you’ve felt distressed (don’t worry about fixing it yet). You are breaking this down into smaller pieces so that you can determine what needs attention and then work on your approach. Since it involves your best friend or your partner, you’ll want to find a way to bring it to their attention in a non-confrontational way or to focus on ways you can change your behavior with them.
An example of a pattern in my own life was that I noticed when my husband and I would get into a heated discussion about anything (the topic didn’t matter), it would escalate into an argument. I realized we handle emotion quite differently in this type of situation. When I would allow my voice to raise and express emotion, that’s was all he heard. He couldn’t get past the tone of my voice. So, I learned that if I wanted him to listen to something, I had to control how I said it. He doesn’t get distracted by my emotional voice now that I’ve learned to state my point calmly.
Once you’ve broached the subject of this distress with your best friend or partner, you will need to be consistent in your behavior and monitor what you’ve asked of them. Talking about it once (one-and-done) will not effect change. As uncomfortable as it may seem, you’ll have to stay on top of this situation. None of us change quickly, especially if we are resistant in the first place.
Urgent vs. Important
Perhaps there is another area of your life you wish were going better or are putting off dealing with. We all have those big lists of things we know we should be managing (such as financial planning) but somehow manage to focus on the urgent matters, relegating some important matters to the bottom of the big list. Yet there is this niggling, unsettled feeling that you should be taking care of something. Since you haven’t a clue how to get started, you avoid thinking about it. Given the constant urgency created by the 24/7 tech demands we all live with, it’s easy to push anything to the bottom of the list. Between cell phones, social media and email, it’s difficult to lose track of what is important in the big picture and respond immediately to all that seems urgent.
Don’t wait until you’re in the right mood to tackle the important matter that intimidates or overwhelms you. You may be waiting a long time! Or waiting until it’s too late and you’ve missed the chance to control the outcome. You can fool yourself into taking action by breaking it down into bite-size pieces, or baby steps, whichever visual works best for you. When I used to play the flute and had trouble mastering a passage, I would identify the bars with the hard part, then I’d break it down into individual notes and replay them slowly. Eventually, I could play them effortlessly. Applying that principle, think about how you can break down that important matter. Maybe you do some online research to warm up, or you send one email or make one phone call. Or create one spreadsheet or one document to fill in, figuring out your specific questions. Anything that gets you moving will help. Without realizing it, some progress will be made, and the motion will carry you to complete what you have to do for that important matter.
Asking for help is never a bad thing. In fact, it may be the key to success. Working with a life coach can help you sort out what is important to you, and collaborating on a plan will get you moving. It’s more effective than asking your friends and family to step in, and being accountable to an objective person is incalculable.
The New You now has a handle on how to deal with those important matters that can’t be avoided forever. It’s part of being a grown-up, like paying bills and getting your teeth cleaned every six months. But mastering doing things you don’t want to have to do is also part of personal growth, which is on everyone’s list (at least I hope it is). Even if you haven’t totally achieved the ability to take care of those things, you’ve started identifying what holds you back. When you were tackling that important matter and realized you don’t know what questions to ask, or that you felt unprepared to make that first phone call, that was progress. Give yourself credit – isn’t that really the same thing as keeping a New Year’s resolution? Now that’s a good way to start your new year!