It’s that time of year again – the gyms are packed, nicotine patches are flying off the shelves, and book shelves are loaded with titles that promise dramatic weight loss and a svelte new figure. The obligatory New Year’s Resolutions are made, and all too often, are forgotten as quickly as they were made. By now, mid-January, many have already abandoned their resolutions. But, why? A new year seems like the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh, right?
Let’s take the following example, if you are a smoker, you already know that it is harmful to your health and you’ll be healthier and live longer if you quit. It doesn’t take January 1st rolling around for you to understand this. But, as January 1st does roll around and your family and friends are talking about their New Year’s resolutions, smoking cessation might pop into your mind as something you should do. The problem is that smoking cessation is very difficult and requires a deep and sincere commitment; success is unlikely if it is merely a resolution made on a whim.
Perhaps, looking at resolutions through the lens of commitment to change can help us to better understand how to make positive changes this year. Instead of making the obligatory resolution, pull out your bucket lists and dust the cobwebs off of your deepest held dreams and life goals. What better to foster a deep commitment than recalling the passion that motivated a life long dream?
Maybe your career goal has always been to own your own business and be your own boss. Or, maybe you have been dreaming of taking a European vacation. Perhaps one of your life goals is home ownership. Or, your dream is to complete that degree you started years ago. Certainly, it is easy to see how major life goals like these would inspire stronger passion and commitment than your standard, token New Year’s resolution. But, it is also important to remember that they are major life goals and not something that can be done overnight, so creating a plan is critical.
Of course, the first step in creating the plan is to select the dream or goal that you are most passionate about pursuing. Then picture yourself, in as much detail as possible, living your dream. Now, chances are you haven’t achieved your goal yet because it seems too big. Maybe it’s a goal that requires more money than you have or more time than you can commit. Take a look at the obstacles between you and your dream and one by one, start coming up with some possible strategies to remove the obstacles.
When you get stuck, and you will (it’s okay; it’s part of the process), summon all your passion and enthusiasm for this dream and sit with it for a while to reinvigorate your spirit. Then start talking to people similar to you who have made the same dream come true. Ask them how they did it and how they managed some of the obstacles you are struggling with. Now, with the benefit of all of this planning and research, picture yourself living your dream again. Chances are that this time, it will be a more realistic picture and seem more possible.
Now that you have a clear sense of what is required, the obstacles you may face and the strategies to combat them, it’s time to create a concrete plan. Your plan should have a realistic time line, with smaller, more manageable goals and deadlines built in throughout. As you achieve the smaller goals in your plan, reward yourself. For example, if the life goal you are working on is starting you own business, when you complete your business plan, reward yourself with a day off, from your current job, and spend it doing some of the things you think you will enjoy most when you are running your own business. If you miss a deadline, don’t beat yourself up, reach out to people who have done this before and seek support and advice. If you have to extend your time line, don’t turn on yourself, just think how much closer you are to your dream than you were when you started. Eventually, with enough time, commitment, and hard work, you will fulfill your dream.
Major endeavors will probably take longer than a year, but if another New Year rolls around in the process, you’ll probably be too busy working on your dream to worry about making the obligatory resolution. You may even find that with the confidence and satisfaction that you gained through working towards your dream, you lost 10 pounds or quit smoking without making an empty New Year’s resolution.
© Copyright 2011 by By Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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