As the calendar flips to a new year, many of us find ourselves pressured to set ambitious goals and resolutions. Thoughts like “this is the year I will start [Insert some healthy and lofty goal].” While the new year can establish a good “starting line” that is easy to measure progress against, you do not need to limit your goal of self-improvement to January 1! The fact is, behavioral changes are most sustainable when you decide for yourself that it is time to change. And believe it or not, this can happen any day and is not limited to January 1.
The cultural emphasis on self-improvement can be overwhelming. We are surrounded by advertisements, social media posts, news outlets, etc., all leading us to believe the beginning of the year should be synonymous with a list of aspirations to fulfill. However, I want to reassure you that it is perfectly okay to embrace the present moment without succumbing to the traditional New Year's resolutions!!!
The Psychology of Resolutions:
While setting goals can be a positive endeavor, the pressure to establish resolutions can inadvertently create unnecessary stress and anxiety for many of us. The psychology behind New Year's resolutions often stems from societal expectations and a desire to conform to perceived norms. In reality, genuine and lasting change is a gradual process that requires self-reflection, patience, and a holistic approach to personal growth.
The Allure of "New Year, New Me":
The phrase "A New Year, A New Me" has become a mantra for many and suggests a complete overhaul of one's life at the stroke of midnight on January 1. However, this mentality can, and often does, set unrealistic expectations and breeds disappointment when change does not happen as quickly or as dramatically as anticipated. It is crucial to recognize that personal development is a continuous and lifelong journey. Bringing in another metaphor, personal development is a marathon and not a sprint that is confined to the boundaries of a single year.
The Power of Acceptance:
I encourage individuals to embrace the power of being compassionate to yourself and embracing acceptance. Accepting oneself as they are in the present moment does not equate to complacency; rather, it fosters a healthier mindset for growth and self-improvement. Acknowledging that it is perfectly natural and okay not to have specific resolutions at the start of the year allows you to have a more authentic and sustainable approach to personal growth and development.
Focusing on Well-Being:
Instead of succumbing to the societal pressure of resolutions, consider redirecting your focus towards holistic well-being. Prioritize self-care, mindfulness, and maintaining a balanced lifestyle and diet. Engage in activities that bring joy and fulfillment, which allow you to foster a positive mental and emotional state. This approach is more likely to yield long-term benefits, as opposed to the temporary highs associated with achieving resolution-based goals.
Setting Realistic Intentions:
If you do feel inclined to set intentions for the year ahead, ensure they are realistic, achievable, and aligned with your values. Small, specific, incremental, and meaningful changes are often more effective than grandiose or vague resolutions (e.g., to be healthier, to make more money, to have more fun) that may lead to quicker burnout or feeling like you have failed yourself. By setting manageable and realistic goals, you can cultivate a sense of accomplishment and build momentum for further positive changes.
Amid the New Year's resolution frenzy, it is crucial to remember it is entirely acceptable to forgo setting specific goals right now, and it is even okay if you decide on July 4th, or any other date, to change a habit/behavior. Even if you realize next December that you forgot to comply with your resolution, it is perfectly acceptable to start working towards your goal then as well! In conclusion, try to be kinder to yourself this year and recognize that personal development is a continuous journey rather than a destination tied to the calendar.