Setting Goals for the New Year

Written by Sadie Grant

The turn of the year is often a time of reflection and renewal. Especially after such a strange and tumultuous year as this one, 2021 may feel like the perfect opportunity to rebuild and reimagine who you are and who you want to be. But this year, we would like to offer an alternative to setting New Year’s Resolutions: Setting bite-sized goals.

While New Year’s Resolutions can be inspiring and uplifting, they can also be daunting, overly vague, and difficult to fulfill. Today, we are going to dive into some of the common challenges that arise around New Year’s Resolutions and share tips for setting more achievable, energizing goals.

Why Do New Year’s Resolutions Go Wrong?

Most studies indicate that about 80% of New year’s Resolutions fail (Ali, 2018). In fact, most resolutions fail as early as February. Why is this goal-setting process so often flawed?

Resolutions are often vague.

How does your resolution align with your values? How can you integrate it into your life? And where did it even come from?

If you had difficulty answering these questions, your resolution may be difficult to achieve. When we are not able to explain and clarify our goals, we are apt to become confused in the process of trying to achieve them. Setting vague intentions can lead to indifference and dissonance. If we break down our goals into smaller tasks and behaviors, on the other hand, the process of growth becomes more fluid and can be better tailored to where we are and where we want to be.

– Resolutions can be daunting.

So you want to learn to play guitar. Or perhaps you want to become more physically active. Or maybe you want to spend more time with your family or friends. What is the first step?

When we do not know how to begin to achieve our goals, looking down the road ahead can make the journey feel daunting and maybe even hopeless. Furthermore, when we state resolutions, we often experience external pressure to succeed. Feeling pressured by loved ones, our own circumstances, or society can be intimidating, and thereby limit our capacity to reach )or even begin the journey toward) our resolutions.

– When we set lofty goals, it can be difficult to notice progress. 

Your resolution was to get organized. But it’s been a week already, and all you’ve managed to do is dissect a few drawers. And a member of your household decided to turn the living room into a temporary project space. In other words, things have never felt more disorganized. 

When we have big aspirations, we often forget that the process of achieving such momentous change is sloooow. If you don’t see any signs of progress, you may be inclined to question whether your goals are achievable or even worth the trouble.

– We may not be ready for this type of change, and that’s okay.

You enthusiastically set your resolutions. But now you are searching for every excuse to step away from your goals. You no longer feel the same sense of passion or connection. 

Growth and change are never a linear process. In fact, growth usually involves some major bumps, dips, and even backtracking. If you no longer feel inspired and energized by your resolutions, it may be more helpful to set new goals that meet you where you are, right here and now. Compassionate course-correcting like this might even inspire a sense of adaptability, resilience, and perseverance.

So how can we set ourselves on the path toward growth?

Although New Year’s Resolutions are often never realized, naming aspirations and setting goals can still pave the way for change. In fact, you can follow your dreams with more success and authenticity when you set smaller bite-sized goals, or tackle a goal piece by piece.

A growing body of psychological research related to accomplishing goals indicates that three effective steps can help facilitate change (American Psychological Association, 2019):

– Set a clearly defined goal, taking into consideration motivation and aspirations

– Observe and adapt your behavior so that it aligns with your identified goal(s)

– Budget and build your will-power and discipline 

Furthermore, according to the American Psychological Association, certain actions have been shown to help people develop the willpower necessary to achieve their goals (2019):

1. Focus on one aspiration at a time.

Addressing one clear goal is more effective than taking on multiple goals at once. Set a concrete objective, such as practicing drawing techniques for 30 minutes each day, or clearing out old clothing from your closet. Once you have accomplished one goal, you can devote your energy and willpower to the next goal.

2. Do your best to limit or distance yourself from temptations and distractions.

Take the time to create a space in which you can focus on your goal. For example, if you are working on a project, consider setting aside a place in your house where you can work without distraction. Or if you are working on harnessing more self-compassion, remove features from your environment that might elicit shame or self-doubt, such as social media accounts that promote unrealistic standards of beauty or living.

3. Create a preventative plan.

Plan for obstacles in advance. Research suggests that having a plan helps us to overcome temptations and distractions without expending too much energy (Duckworth et al., 2010). For example, if your goal is to save more money, you may tell yourself, “if someone asks me to meet at a restaurant for a meal, I’ll suggest that we cook at home instead”.

4. Record your behavior.

Consider monitoring your behavior as you move toward your goal. For example, if you want to develop your capacity to speak a second language, record your progress. Tracking your growth may help you to recognize your accomplishments and modify your behavior when needed.

5. Congratulate yourself along the way!

At each milestone, reward yourself for your hard work with an enjoyable and generative activity. For example, after using a new skill to improve communication with a family member, gift yourself a walk in your favorite spot, or enjoy a long, luxurious bath.

6. Take care of your body to the best of your ability, meeting yourself where you are at.

Our bodies need sleep and nourishment. Food and rest can support us to meet our goals by boosting our energy and giving our bodies the nutrients necessary for wellbeing.

7. Ask for support from others.

Research indicates that creating a support system can help us to reach our goals. Tell trusted friends or family members about your aspirations so that they can encourage you along the way.

This New Year, consider giving yourself the gift of gentle, forgiving, and dynamic change. Perhaps that looks like setting a small goal instead of a New Year’s Resolution, or maybe simple allowing yourself to rest and reflect.

Aspirations for growth can be wonderful, but it is also important to keep our expectations in perspective. Let 2021 be the year you respect both your ambitions and your energy. It’s okay to take a step back. Every amount of growth, no matter how small, is a victory.

 

References:

Ali, S. (2018, December 05). Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail. Retrieved December 24th, 2020, from www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201812/why-new-years-resolutions-fail

Duckworth, A.L., Grand, H., Loew, B., Oettingen, G. & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2010). Self-regulation strategies improve self-discipline in adolescents: Benefits of mental contrasting and implementation intentions. Educational Psychology, 31, 17-26.

Harnessing willpower to meet your goals. (2019, December). Retrieved December 24th, 2020, from www.apa.org/topics/willpower-fact-sheet

Spring Renewal

We exist within cyclic rhythms, akin to the Earth. These cycles emphasize transformational wisdom which, when observed and utilized, have the potential to propel us forth in our personal evolution. As we come closer to the fulfillment of Winter and the emergence of Spring, we are entering a time of renewal and revitalization. The endurance required to withstand winter’s challenges is thus meaningful; there is a reprieve in sight. The thawing of the ice is a time of joy and resurgence, and a welcoming of new life.

Winter gifts to us the space for thorough introspection and deliberation; it is a time of reflection on the experiences of the last cycle. We may mindfully decide what to bring with us moving forward. Which parts of the last cycle encourage us to grow and evolve into our best selves? How do the patterns we have established, within the last year or perhaps even longer ago, affect us? Do we find ourselves stuck in old patterns, or have we found a refreshing momentum? Taking the time to reflect on our individual experiences can reveal the lessons they have to offer; wisdom is the application of those lessons.

We’ve adopted the tradition of spring-cleaning; a ritual of clearing out that which no longer serves us and organizing our belongings in ways that help us function more efficiently. In similar ways, we can utilize this process of re-orchestrating our physical world and apply it to our mental world. What do we have stored in our mind which we no longer need to hold on to? What can we release, so that there may be room for something new? What, within us, can we allow to thaw? As the snow of mountaintops melts into streams which feed the fertile ground, so can we release the things which bind us to a frozen state and sow the terrain beneath us with potential.

Words & Art by Molly Crosen

In Celebration of Self-Love

by Molly Crosen

“To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.”   -Oscar Wilde  

Learning to love oneself is a lifelong journey; one of many challenges and reprieves. It spirals inward and outward with infinite potentiality in any direction we choose. In this process of allowing love to be received, both from ourselves and from outside sources, we learn which ways best communicate to us that we are honored and supported. Like the layers of the lotus, within a nourishing environment we can be encouraged to bloom and to revel in the beauty of being.

We can look to our choices to unveil the relationship we have with ourselves; are we making decisions out of love and encouraging our passions? Or are we doubting our capabilities out of fear of making a mistake or failing? A useful perspective to navigate these questions is to realize there is no failure in mistakes, there are only lessons to be learned. To transcend and evolve is to be open to those lessons, and to be kind and forgiving to ourselves in the process.

The ways in which we love ourselves are as vast and distinct as we all are, there is no wrong way to do so. When we make decisions from a place of honoring our self, we are choosing the things that nourish our body, mind, and soul. Perhaps we might take the time to breathe and re-center our self, creating space for a mindful moment. We could reflect on what we might be grateful for; gratitude can paint even the most mundane experience with magnificence. If we create this space of wellbeing and abundance within those moments, simultaneously we create a space to take care of ourselves.

Within that space there is boundless opportunity to invite healing and transformation. We are invited to listen to our heart, and to do the things that naturally bring us home within ourselves. The healing process teaches us that we are worthy of love, patience, and compassion throughout our journey. When we can embrace who we are we are liberated from the fear of being and grant ourselves permission to celebrate each day with mindful appreciation for All that we are.

Looking for more ways to practice self-love? Check out Bridge Studio at Art of Awareness!
Learn more and visit our full schedule of workshops and classes here

 

Creating New Meaning

  “We can’t change the things that have happened to us, but we can change the meaning they have in our lives today.”

Ida O’Donnell

 

 

Creative Expressions

All of the providers at Art of Awareness are trained to offer traditional and innovated therapy options.  We support our clients in exploring ways to creatively express themselves and we greatly value the therapeutic potential of exploring creativity and expression through the arts!

This blog is a place to celebrate the images, words, and creations of the many people who are part of our very special community.