If you are looking to change a behavior, an outlook, or start making progress toward some new goals, the best time to do that is right NOW.
I mean it. Not tomorrow, not in a week, not in a month.
If something needs to be changed start now. Stop reading (once you finish this article, of course) and start moving.
Human beings like to attach meaning to dates. And why not? It creates significance out of just another day. It gives us a starting point and hopefully time to prepare for whatever it is we are doing (which leads to more success). It gives us a point to look backward from. It gives us a celebration date. It gives value and meaning to our accomplishments when we hit them.
So every year around December and January, we go through the process of identifying “New Year’s Resolutions” and preparing (or not really) for change that we want to make.
Many of these resolutions go unmet or quickly forgotten. With some tips that you’ll find below, you can prepare yourself for greater self-growth and increase your chances of being more successful with your resolutions in the New Year, or really, whenever you want to start the process of change.
This three-step pattern is a great way to approach the New Year and prepare for growth (and they all start with R’s, so it is somewhat catchy).
Beware though. This is not as simple as “state your goals and make a plan.”
It involves some deeper examination inward, so the goals for change we set for ourselves are meaningful and relevant.
This stage is critical for new growth. Often we neglect it and we create goals or seek change that doesn’t always match with where we are and where we really want to be.
Take a look at the past year and your successes and shortcomings.
What worked for you and what did not?
What did you contribute to your successes?
And how did you also contribute to your shortcomings?
This will allow you to reflect on what comes next, where to “steer your ship”, and give you some tips on what to repeat and what not to repeat.
Then explore “How do I feel about my successes and shortcoming?” No, really, what are your thoughts and feelings about what was accomplished or not?
Thoughts and feelings drive our behavior (just ask the cognitive behavioral therapists) so this is an important piece that can’t be missed.
Is there anything outstanding, missed, or left on the table? This includes any outstanding rewards for your successes and correction plans for shortcomings.
Acknowledge both the good and bad. Give yourself that pat on the back when deserved if you haven’t already, but also learn from the things that didn’t go your way. A negative experience without a lesson learned is just a waste of time. And time is a valuable resource we can never get back.
Finally, ask “What can I/need to/want to change? What is at the root of the issues which have led me to seek growth and change?”
We aren’t defining our new goals yet, but we are starting to at least bring ideas to the table.
The repair phase has many difficult components but it allows us to heal in preparation for our journey. Apologies, amends, forgiveness all happen here.
Without examining these things, we leave loose ends and obligations. Those can come back and be barriers to our growth and success.
Do you owe anyone (yourself included) an apology or have a need to “make it right?” As long as you will not be creating more trouble or pain, go do it!
Ask “How can I forgive myself and others for misgivings?” This is not as easily answered, especially when it comes to forgiving the self, but it is necessary for growth.
Think of the setbacks or shortcomings from your reflection phase. How do you truly see them? Refine what they mean to you and, if necessary, change your mindset about them.
This is similar to finding the “silver lining” in a less than optimal situation or pulling the lesson out of a negative experience. If you view these setbacks as just a temporary slip backward or bump in the road that you learned from, as opposed to an outright failure, you will be in a better place to grow.
Finally, ask “How can I improve myself to minimize future conflicts and miscommunications?”
This is where we truly prepare and set the stage for our future growth. The other phases were important, but if we don’t adequately energize ourselves we will stagnate. You don’t leave for a road trip with the fuel gauge on “E”, do you?
Find your “why.”
What motivates and drives you? Why do you need this growth, this change? What meaning do they have for you personally? If we want to get real spiritual, how do I matter or fit into the bigger picture?
The answers to these questions will not only push you and keep you on the track of self-growth but give you a compass to guide you on your journey.
Take care of any small items or tasks to help you get your plate as clean as you can for the New Year. Accomplishing even the small things in preparation for your bigger change will make you feel great.
Make your plans for change and enlist help. Take all of the self-examination you have done so far and now set your goals.
Tie your goals in with your desired growth, change, and “why”.
When setting formal goals, be sure to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based).
Then identify where you can use help and who can support and assist you in your growth plan. You are not alone. I’ll say it louder for the people in the back. YOU ARE NOT ALONE!!!
We increase our success when we utilize help and support, even if that means eating a big ol’ piece of humble pie.
Define your milestones and how you are going to reward yourself along the way. We don’t always get recognition or reward, so we need to plan on doing it ourselves.
Visualize yourself implementing your plan and what it will be like to meet your milestones. Even visualize shortcomings. This will help prepare you for any unexpected situations that impact your plan.
There you have it. The not-so-easy way to ensure your success and growth in the New Year. Though change is a daunting task, approaching it in an organized manner and preparing appropriately will ease some of the stress we put ourselves through.
~ Chris Dorian, LCADC, Ascend Treatment & Wellness Center