In two weeks we will be celebrating a new year.
And while we are ending a year that has been anything but typical, I bet many of you are eager to consider what kinds of potential changes you'd like to see in the new year. I honestly don't think even a global pandemic will stop people from making some goals, otherwise known as resolutions.
Most of us start each year with good intentions. We have a list of things we're going to start or stop doing. The year feels fresh, and it's time to be the person that we've always wanted to be.
At some point in the year the shine wears off and we start to go back to old patterns and behaviors.
Some of us even write off the entire year if we've failed at our new year's resolutions by the time we hit February and decide to try again next year.
Holding on to the idea that a new year somehow magically makes it possible for us to do better, we postpone change to a later date.
For those of you who are raising children with special abilities, you know that setting goals are not just about a January thing; it's an always thing. The difference between the goals they have set and the goals we set for ourselves in January is that we consider our goals not to be as potentially life-changing as theirs are. If we don't give up chocolate, we can still function successfully. We don’t place a lot of importance to our own goals.
Perhaps because we’ve come to believe that we’ll never accomplish them.
This is a little trick we play on ourselves; it's a way to opt-out of genuinely engaging in our lives. And I wondered what would happen if we carefully chose our goals and decided to work on them as adamantly as we encourage our kiddos too.
What if we considered that we're effectively cheating ourselves and switching off because it's too hard to keep going, even after we fail.
What if, instead of saying, "If only I had kept going," we change to saying, "Next time, I won't give up. Will I start again"?
How do we break the cycle of February fall off?
Maybe it starts by deciding to set kinder, more manageable goals that are supported by clear intentions.
Choose a small goal that's aligned with your intent rather than something so big it feels too hard to do. For instance, my intention this month is to do three minutes of meditation every day, or as many days as I can manage. It’s a hope that has a good reason behind it.
The length of time is small, so it feels achievable. More importantly, it's not about having a streak but about showing up as many days as I can, even if I miss a day or two here or there. The point is, keep going.
And I review regularly and gently.
Check-in every week and reflect on how it's going with your intentions. Celebrate the three or four times you managed to actually commit to them, and gently look at how you might be able to increase that number. Take an honest look at what is getting in the way and how you might be able to do it more regularly. And most importantly, take a look at the benefits you've gained from just doing it on a somewhat regular basis.
This brings me to the next point: Find a cheer squad.
When you tell someone else what you are trying to do, there's a little more gentle pressure to actually do it. It's not to set up any potential for judgment or guilt. Still, you've verbalized and created this intention outside of yourself—and now you know that a cheer squad or cheerleader is waiting to tell you what a great job you did.
Don’t forget to be prepared for the fail. Have a plan for when things go wrong.
One of the main reasons we give up on things is that we don't plan for when things go wrong. The life you live is filled with the unpredictable. I know this. So expect that you won't meet your intentions every day.
There will always be some scenarios you haven't considered, but the pool will get smaller, and you'll be more prepared to stay true to yourself through adversity or temptation when you have plans in place.
Mostly, just keep in mind why you made this goal in the first place.
Honor your intentions.
Keep the reason or intention more evident and easy to recall than the actual outcomes you envision.
That's what we do with therapy for our kids, right? We don't stop working on their goals because we don't see the results we have hoped for. It's not always about the products; it's about the actions. The action is what supports your intention to make life better. How much better? Well, if you don't give up, it will be much better than it was when you started working on that goal. If it feels too hard and more like punishment, then it isn't meeting what it was intended to do.
Imagine what your resolutions would look like if they were easy and gentle.
Designed to show yourself some compassion versus punishment. To learn rather than to regret.
Give yourself permission to break this annual cycle. It's not about whether this is your year. It's about the fact that this is your life. Go get it with kindness in your heart toward yourself.
Joy is originally from the Central Valley of California, where she was raised on a farm and discovered her love for growing things. As the mother of a blended family of 7 adults and the grandmother of 9, she's learned many lessons about supporting the growth of people.