Couch Conversations: Maintaining your New Year's Resolutions
It is the New Year. A New Year usually comes with New Year’s Resolutions. However, most people have difficulty knowing how to develop and maintain their New Year’s Resolutions. Perhaps your resolutions this year are related to the topics of health, fitness and/or exercise. Or maybe you want to work on career goals this year and finding a way of finally getting that promotion. You may even be considering working on your relationships.
Much of what we strive to change in our lives is “external” to us and exists in the outside world. But if we took the time to think about the ways we can actually work on changing the “internal” aspects of ourselves, not only will our resolutions stay intact longer, but these changes will be much more meaningful.
The therapists at Couch Conversations Psychotherapy and Counseling, Inc. use goal-setting as one way of helping clients develop, plan and meet their desired goals. Here are some considerations when thinking about goal-setting and finding ways to more successfully maintain the changes you want to make.
Developing Goals for Change
The first step is always determining what are the areas for change and setting goals related to those changes. Promoting change could be adaptive as long as people are honest about that change and set intentions that make the change more realistic. When identifying areas of change, consider the different domains of life. These domains could include: family, friends, romantic relationships, job/career, education/learning, physical health, fitness, mental/emotional health, and home life.
Think about what domains are working well at this time and do not require a lot of change, versus the areas that would be beneficial to change (i.e., changing lifestyle to improve health or fitness goals). Identifying what you want to work on by looking at these different domains is important, but do not try to overdo it. Pick one or two areas that seem realistic and reasonable to start. As changes occur in one or two domains, it will be easier to expand and focus on other areas for change.
Developing goals may not be easy for everyone. If you are having difficulty accessing areas for change and developing goals around them, you may benefit from therapy where a trained professional could assist in evaluating your different life areas and finding ways to promote change.
External Versus Internal Motivation for Change
When you think about your personal goals, consider asking yourself about the intent of this change. For instance, are you looking to lose weight this year because of social comparison with others? Is it because you have a big life event coming up (i.e., wedding) and have a desire for your appearance to look a certain way? It is important that we make this distinction of the intent behind our motivations and ask ourselves, “Am I doing this for myself because I want to work on my overall health?” or “Am I doing this for others?”
You may have already seen this coming, but our success in achieving our personal goals and resolutions is going to be swayed by our internal versus external factors. And at times, external factors may be more motivating for us in maintaining our goals; however, we are going to acquire more meaning and an understanding of ourselves when we choose to make a change for us rather than for “them.” This is why we want to equip ourselves with our toolbox so that we have a better understanding of how to differentiate between our personal emotional responses, to those responses we have toward others.
What is This Toolbox you Speak of?
Throughout the year, imagine that you are carrying a toolbox with you wherever you go—especially in challenging emotional situations. And as you go through the year and learn about new strategies, you will continue to add tools to your toolbox. We are not talking about wrenches and screwdrivers of course, but we are talking about coping tools, resources, and relaxation techniques that you can pull from when you might be feeling emotionally dysregulated, reactive toward another person, or even anxious and depressed.
Here are some tools that you can add to your resource toolbox when you find yourself motivated by others rather than yourself:
-Change your perspective about people and circumstances out of your control
-Write your reflections down in a journal
-Talk to trusted people about what you are feeling or experiencing about a certain topic
-When you are feeling worked up, try to ground yourself with deep breathing
-Reflect on your thoughts, emotions and behaviors and ask yourself if you would (prefer/want to) change anything
In the beginning, this sort of reflection about the self takes time and can bring up a lot of negative emotions. It is important that you find someone trusted to talk to about these feelings whether in individual or group therapy to further explore and find clarification on your thoughts and feelings.
Regardless of what your goals and resolutions might be this year, it may be worth your time to first assess what domains of your life you would like to promote change and improve. Engaging in exploration and really trying to understand the intent behind these motives is essential in determining external versus internal motivations for change. Ask yourself if you are equipped with the proper tools to get to your goals, and learn how to incorporate your toolbox in your daily life for the success and maintenance of these goals.
Ready to start thinking about your New Year's Resolutions? Consider working with one of our Couch Conversations Psychotherapy and Counseling, Inc. therapists to develop your personal goals, create a plan to meet those goals, and maintain your progress over time. Feel free to complete the "Contact Us" form below and one of our psychotherapists will reach out to speak with you.