Hi Everyone and Happy 2021! After the last year we have had, I am sure you all have made some resolutions to start this year off different. You feel ready to make some lasting changes for yourself and your life. I have created this guide to offer you some tips on how to make those resolution’s STICK and become this year’s achievements rather than the laundry list of forgotten to-do’s that they can often become.
Tip #1: Beware of the “Shoulds”
What we set as a goal is important to us! Otherwise, it would not be something we determined to set out and achieve. How we communicate this goal to ourselves is almost equally as important as the content. Think for a second about how you feel when you tune in to your inner dialogue and hear “I should have exercised today.” Or “I should read more often.” How about the ever faithful, “I should eat healthier.” If you then tune in to how your body feels when you observe these statements, you may notice a tightening of your chest or shoulders, perhaps a feeling of heaviness in your limbs that almost creates a sensation of “stuckness.”
Your mind is a powerful tool, and therefore what you think and how you speak to yourself MATTERS. Your goals are important to you and your hope is to achieve them. It is important to remember that the reason they are goals and not achievements is because YOU HAVE NOT ACHIEVED THEM YET! When we tell ourselves we “should” or we “should have,” we give ourselves the feeling and the impression that we have failed before we have even given ourselves the opportunity to begin. This often makes it more difficult if not impossible just to get started.
So this new year, do yourself the favor of bringing mindfulness to what you say to yourself and how you set your goals, it may just help you achieve them.
Tip #2: Identify the Value
We often have many different areas of our life that we are working on at any given time. Perhaps we may have a goal to complete more projects and procrastinate less often. Perhaps our goal is to call extended family more often. Maybe we just want to take more time for self-care or meditation.
If we are not careful, we can easily become overwhelmed and overburdened by the multitude of resolutions that we have. Let’s be honest, when we are staring down at a very long list of things we wish to accomplish, it can be daunting rather than encouraging.
Therefore, identifying the value behind your resolutions is immensely helpful in organizing your goal setting. This may feel like an extra or unnecessary step at first but will ultimately increase the likelihood that you will follow through with your resolutions.
Start off by creating a list of your values, the things that are most important to you in your life, the driving forces behind your goals. Your list of values might read: Health, Family, Self-Growth, and so on. Everyone’s list of values will look different because we are all unique in the different factors that motivate us. Once you have created your list, you can begin to categorize your goals based on what value they fall under. For example, that resolution to change your eating habits might fall under Health. The goal of saving a certain amount this year from each paycheck might fall under your value of Stability/Financial Security. Most likely, you will see a trend in that you may have several goals that can fall into each value category.
Separating your goals by value category will help you to organize your list and make it feel more meaningful and manageable rather than intimidating and demanding.
Tip #3: Reflect on Your “Whys” Often
The reason that identifying our values this is so helpful and important, is that we often lose touch with the ‘Whys.’ Our Whys are the reasons that we do what we do, the value behind that goals we set that drive us into action. It is in connecting with our values and that our motivation can thrive. Once you reconnect and remember why you sent that resolution for the new year, you are more likely to stick to it and less likely to talk yourself out of it. So spend some time each day, reminding yourself of the value behind each resolution you have made and you will be more likely to feel connected to the actual tasks in a deeper way and find more joy in things that can often feel mundane or even unpleasant at times (think, swapping celery for potato chips).
Tip # 4: Prioritizing and Chunking
Even though we would all like to think we are the world’s greatest multitasker, we really cannot give our full emotional energy and presence to too many things at once. By prioritizing your goals based on your values, you can better determine which goals might be the best ones to start with first.
For example, You may choose to start with the goal of shifting your eating habits because you recognize that if you prioritize your health and wellbeing, you will most likely be able to save that money from your paycheck by ordering Postmates less (those delivery fees are ridiculous!) and meal planning more. Or perhaps your energy and mental stamina will improve as your health improves and you will one able to then feel more successful in exercising more often if that is your goal.
Realistically, we can only really prioritize three things at any given time. You can play to this as a strength and achieve success through a process called Chunking. In this process, you simply separate your actions towards each of your resolutions into sets of three.
On way to do this would be to decide to choose only one action or goal from three of your values categories to start with, and once you have completed those, you can move on to another set of three goals from three values. This may change daily too! So for example, you can make Monday, Wednesday and Friday your days to focus on your Health and Exercise resolutions (you can pick a different three actions/goals each day if you have multiple). Then on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday you can prioritize your Self-Growth and Stability goals (maybe practicing the same three actions on these days if you only have a few).
This is more likely to keep you engaged, motivated, and well-rounded in how you are taking care of yourself and working towards achieving your resolutions and MAKING THEM STICK!
We can become lost and depressed when we are disconnected with any one of our values, overwhelmed when we feel we have too much on our plates, and discouraged when our self-talk becomes harsh and critical. Using these four simple tips, you will be able to prioritize all your resolutions and both short- and long-term goals. You can feel more aligned in your actions with what the true values in your life are and improve your overall sense of mental wellbeing.
Thank you for taking the time to consider these tips to make your resolutions stick. I hope you achieve them and then some. And if you do not, I hope you validate all the factors that are out of your control that became barriers and forgive yourself. Recognize and reflect on the possibility that your goal may have been unrealistic and that is okay! Simply, find a way to start smaller.
And as always, consider that you are always enough just the way you are right now.
Best wishes for an amazing year,
Caitlin Garber MC, NCC, LPC
Owner and Therapist at Novo Counseling and Wellness, PLLC