It’s funny how the simple unwrapping of a new calendar gets us contemplating how we can improve ourselves or make this year even better than the last. As if changing the last number in a year from a 1 to 2 has the power to transform our lives into the Hallmark movies we watched all December.
As a clinician, I feel it is important to say that approaching the new year as a time to rehash all the things we do not like about ourselves is dangerous territory and simply unproductive. Instead, let’s make resolutions that last and bring about positive changes.
If you really want to make a change that lasts, turn your resolution into a goal. Resolutions themselves are often too generic and set us up for failure. A goal lays the groundwork for more realistic and higher quality results.
When creating a goal, I like to use the trusted acronym S.M.A.R.T. A smart goal is: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time oriented. Now that we’ve defined it, let’s put it into practice.
Let’s say you have resolved that you want to be happier this year. Great! You have a goal. Now let’s make it S.M.A.R.T: I want to be happier in my personal relationships so I will reserve two Fridays a month to spend at least one hour with a friend.
Now that you’ve mastered creating a goal it’s time to master failing. Yes, that’s right, I said failing. Over the next 365 days you will most likely fail at least once. Once we acknowledge the failure, we can more quickly return our focus to what we can do in the present moment. We achieve a goal by moving forward not by dwelling in the past.
One of the first mistakes we make when creating a goal is attaching pass or fail logic. As humans, we love all or nothing thinking because it makes sense. But when it comes to evaluating the success of your goal, it simply does not work. Think back to our goal of more meaningful relationships. It is possible to become happier in your relationships even if there were a few months that you only had time for one get together instead of two.
Goals are fluid and it is important to allow yourself to rework the goal. Circumstances change, global pandemics occur, life happens. It’s how you adjust that matters. Be brave, take small steps, and have the courage to continue even when it becomes difficult. Success is not about passing or failing, it’s about the way you feel at the end of it all.