December 27, 2018

At year’s end, reflection and new beginnings

New year, new you?

I hope not.  You are enough just as you are.

In these final days of the year, it is natural to look backward on what the past 12 months have given us.  Perhaps moments of great beauty and wonder, sadness and perhaps heartbreak.  And probably through it all a whole lot of growth, personally and professionally.

It’s also natural to look forward to the year ahead.  The idea of a clean slate and a fresh start can be inspiring and motivating.  A new beginning could be just the nudge you need.

On New Year’s resolutions

More than 40% of Americans set New Year’s resolutions, yet few of us actually achieve those goals we set at the dawn of a new year.

There are a lot of reasons for this, including aiming too high or setting nonspecific goals, but failure to follow through can have consequences.  Not only does your goal elude you, but your mental health can suffer.  It doesn’t feel good to feel defeated.  But hoping to wake up on January 1 a whole new person is a great way to set yourself up for defeat. Shelcy V. Joseph crystallizes why and a better way of thinking:

“You don’t become a new person overnight. Your story carries over to the new year. Only this time, you’re wiser and you’re working to bring to life a better version of yourself.”

My approach to the new beginning

Although I’m not a fan of the resolution craze, I do see a lot of value in taking stock of the year I’ve just experienced and setting goals for the year ahead.

Looking back, I like to take time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished.  Did I meet my goals?  If so, who and what made that possible?  This process allows me to express gratitude for that support and also to see what worked and strive to maintain that level of support into the year to come.

Looking forward, I like to make a list of 10 or so goals that are important to me. I distill these to my highest priorities — my big 3 — for the year.  These goals do not flip a switch for me on New Year’s Day.  Rather, they are often goals that take time and regular work and reflection to achieve.  Wholesale transformation on day 1 is not the idea.  It’s about commitment and a methodical approach to working on something that is important to me, one day at a time.

There is immense satisfaction in setting a goal you care about, working throughout the year to achieve it and noting at year’s end that you have done just what you set out to do.  It’s still not easy, but the process ensures you aren’t derailed by a few bad days.

Wisdom for achieving your goals, whatever you call them

Whether you are embarking on a Big 3 journey like me or setting a resolution like many other people right now, you can maximize your chances of success if you leverage the science of behavior change and the experience of many other goal setters before you.

Set an achievable goal:  If your goal is about a habit, ensure you choose a small, clear action (like “eat fruit with breakfast” rather than “improve my diet”), Susan Weinschenk suggests.

Link the habit to something you already do:  New habits are hard.  Entrenched habits are not.  So use your existing pattern to add on a new habit, Weinschenk says.

Start out easy:  Leverage that old-habit-new-habit connection early on, and thwart any possible barriers to integrating the new habit, such as with reminder notes to yourself, Weinschenk says.

Get it in your face:  For some people, going public is the key to accountability, while for others something a little more introspective like a vision board is the answer, Dan Diamond writes.  Whatever works for you, use it to keep your goal top-of-mind.

Believe in yourself:  At the start of this post, I said: You are enough.  You are, but you have to believe it yourself to achieve all you are capable of.  Research suggests willpower is not fixed, but rather, you have as much as you think you have, Diamond writes.  Don’t sell yourself short.

Change your story:  We all have deeply ingrained narratives we spin about who we are, and these stories drive behavior, Weinschenck says.  If your story doesn’t support you as an achiever of goals, you may need to write a new narrative for yourself.

[bctt tweet=”It’s not easy, whether you are setting goals or committing to a resolution. But if you embrace the opportunity to reflect on past successes and carefully set goals that matter to you for the year ahead, you will get there. Not at lightning speed, but you will find your way.” username=”MettaSolutions”]

How do you approach the end of one year and the start of the next?

Do you set goals?  Resolutions?  Sit this tradition out?  Please share what works for you!

Last updated December 27, 2018