by Joan Findley-Perls
Welcome to the New Year!!! This is a great time for some self-reflection and planning for the 2018. You can get a lot done in a year and make giant strides toward your dreams and goals. It is tempting to make resolutions to achieve those dreams and goals but there is a danger of setting the bar too high, letting yourself down and giving up altogether. Instead, envision yourself at the end of the 2018 to help you come up with reasonable expectations.
Envisioning Your Life
It is wise to plan ahead but be careful not to undermine yourself with your resolutions right out of the gate. Take time to create a vision of what, where and how you want your life to be by the end of the year. Do you want to lose weight, or travel to Italy, or simply be happier at the end of the year?
Picture yourself in your ideal life. Stay within the rules of reality like: you can’t actually fly, you do have to pay your bills and you are only 5 foot-whatever, but within the boundary of reality where will you be living, what will it feel like, what will your ideal day be like? This is your vision for and of your life one year from now.
Make a record of your vision. There are several ways to document it: make an outline, create a mind map, (Here is a good free website to help you create a mind map), or create a vision board (Here are some good examples) or do all three. It is very useful to be able to check in on your vision throughout the year so you can see your progress and where you might want to step up your game.
One Bite at a Time
So as not to get overwhelmed with the big picture, think of the old adage: “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time. (Not that anyone should eat or harm an elephant). Map out your vision into categories that make sense for you. For example: Health, Home, Work, Relationships, Spirituality, Fun. You may have other categories that you want to work on. This is your vision, so make it work for you. Then take each category, one at a time.
Let’s take Health, for example: You want to be healthier. What exactly does that mean? You want to lose weight so that you look amazing. Rather than making a resolution that you will lose 25 pounds by the end of the year, think of what you will need to do daily/weekly/monthly in order to lose 25 pounds in one year and keep it off.
You will need to eat less and exercise more. If you ask an expert, they will tell you to exercise 3 to 5 time a week and keep your caloric intake to less than you are burning. If you are starting from exercising zero times per week, 5 times a week is a lot to take on all at once. Start, instead, with something at which you can succeed.
For example, for the first two weeks, resolve to go for a brisk walk or go to the gym once a week. The following week add another day or two per week. Then increase the difficulty or intensity. Maybe your resolution is to get up to exercising 3 or 4 times per week by the end of the second or third month.
Do the same approach with eating. First, make one change in your diet that you can do without feeling like you are severely depriving yourself. For example, cut sugar out of your diet but don’t take on any other changes.
That’s a big change, it will make a big difference and though it’s a big challenge, if it’s the your only dietary challenge, you have a good chance of achieving that one thing. Once you are used to these incremental changes you can add new ones.
Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. That’s not reasonable, but try to be good 80% of the time. That way, if you slip up, you can forgive yourself and move on with your progress. Creating daily habits requires persistence and patients.
Every so often throughout the year take a look at your vision board or mind map (or whatever you created to document your vision.) How are you doing? In what areas are you moving forward? Where are you lagging? Take some time to appreciate your accomplishments.
Are there areas where you are not actually taking action or really only doing it half-heartedly? Don’t punish yourself. That serves no purpose. You may want to spend some time analyzing what’s going on.
In the big picture, is this goal truly important to you? If it is, why isn’t it getting the attention it needs for you to succeed? Is it that you don’t have enough time? Maybe you need to re-prioritize, or perhaps you have taken on too many goal for the year or for right now. If it’s not about time, what is it?
Be honest with yourself and above all, be kind to yourself. If your plan for that goal isn’t working, maybe you need to take another approach. It’s okay to change your plan for the year as you change and learn more about yourself.
Every step forward is something to celebrate. It’s hard work to take on these challenges and it’s important to acknowledge what you have accomplished.
Watch out for negative self-talk like, “I’m working out three times a week but I’ve only lost 2 pounds.” What?! You lost 2 pounds!!! That’s fantastic! Keep up the good work!
If you stay consistent, you will lose all the weight you want, 2 pounds at a time. If you don’t reach your goal by the end of the year and you are consistently meeting your weekly goals, maybe your end of the year goal wasn’t realistic. For you, it may take a bit longer, but now you have learned that bit of truth for you.
Reward yourself. Come up with a list of rewards in your plan so that when reward time comes, you don’t binge on chocolate, rather, get yourself a treat from the list like a new article of clothing or gadget that you’ve been wanting.
Good luck in your endeavors! May you have joy and gratification throughout the new year.