Resolutions are about making choices. They offer us an opportunity to change our habits, and an attempt to master our behavior and beliefs. As a therapist I have seen countless people create positive change in counselling, certainly many more than 10% of my clients achieve their desired outcome, so I know it is possible for people to make choices and changes that stand the test of time.
Clients in therapy generally spend some time figuring out what their goal is, such as moving on from an unhealthy relationship or overcoming anxiety. Working together over a number of sessions, we break that goal down into small steps, and over time the client gains new insight and learns skills that enable him or her to move forward. And of course, they are working with a supportive therapist who keeps them to task.
So how can we relate this to making New Year’s resolutions?
- Set Realistic Aims: Rather than one big goal, set out small realistic aims that can be broken down and recorded on your calendar, such as “I want to lose at least 20lbs in weight this year so I will plan out on a daily or weekly basis how to lose 2lbs each month”. Make your aims small, realistic and measurable and set up some method of recording your progress before you even get started.
- Visualize your goal: If you are good at seeing things in your mind, imagine what you will look and feel like once you have achieved your overall aim. Make it a really clear picture that motivates you. You could also cut out a picture that represents what you are working towards and stick it on the fridge so you see it every day as a reminder to stay on track.
- Make yourself accountable: tell people around you what your aim is and ask them to check in with you regularly on how you are doing.
- Find support: If your goal is to lose weight, for example, can you form a group of other people with the same aim and meet regularly? One of my recent clients realised that trying to conquer her unhealthy eating habits alone was too much for her, so she reached out on Facebook and found other ladies locally who were willing to meet regularly to go walking and discuss their healthy eating strategies. With this support she is now making great progress.
- Stay Motivated: As you plan your goal with small achievable steps, build in a reward system to keep you on track. So, for every month that you achieve at least the planned 2lbs of weight loss, plan a nice outing or small gift for yourself as a treat.
- Stay on Track: If you find yourself slipping back, don’t guilt yourself or think that because you had a burger and fries the whole thing is lost and you might as well start again next January. A stumble is not the same as a fall, so be compassionate with yourself and get straight back on track with your healthier habits. My clients often encounter setbacks and feel resistant to change in therapy, but we push through that and see it as an opportunity to learn, not a cue to give up.
If you want to change something in your life, New Year can be a great time to take that positive step, but you don’t need to wait to fix something in your life that isn’t working. If you know you need to take action, then start developing the habits of a proactive person today! If you think you will need support to make life changes, then you might also want to make this the year that you seek counselling. I offer a free 20 minute consultation so we can discuss whether I might be able to help you.