Many of us greet the New Year with resolutions to make important changes or adjustments in our lives. Unfortunately, we often bite off more than we can chew and the results can be disappointing. However, by making small, easy-to-achieve resolutions the rewards can be substantial over time. January 1st, is the time when we decide to stop a behaviour or habit all together, and it’s this ‘all or nothing’ approach known in cognitive psychology as ‘black and white thinking’ that sets us up to fail.
So, the first hurdle we stumble over, whether it’s a puff of a cigarette or a cross word with someone we are trying to build bridges with, can be interpreted as ‘failure’. Feeling as if we’ve failed makes us feel low, fed up, and in turn its easier to turn toward that habit we are trying to change than if we adopted a more positive attitude.
What’s your motivation
Why we want to make a change, give up, or start something new is important to decide. Your motivators provide the incentive for action! For example, your Doctor telling you “you need to quit smoking or you’ll have a heart attack” may be a more powerful motivator to change than your own self-talk ‘maybe I should quit, I have an expensive habit, I’m not as fit as I was’. When you’ve identified your motivators, write them down and post on the fridge, desk, or in a place where you can see it throughout the day. It may be a photograph of the vacation destination you want to save up for, or photograph of a healthier happier you.
Allow yourself to slip
Giving yourself permission not be perfect or have a 100% track record can be liberating. This is not to say you are letting yourself off the hook but if you’ve honestly slipped up review the situation and consider if you were faced with that same scenario again, how would you handle it differently ?
Lets look at a few examples.
Consider your Finances
After the Christmas spending, the New Year is the time when we really feel the pinch, but this is the perfect time as a family to review your budget and spending. Resolve to distinguish “wants” from “needs” in the new year. Financial experts indicate that people routinely spend as much as 30% of their disposable income on items that are nice to have “but not necessarily necessary”. This is not to say that we must deprive ourselves, but when one gets used to asking, “Is this a need or a want?”, we inevitably wind up making wiser choices. Once you’ve mastered this skill, you may wish to pass it on to your children.
More time or quality Time
If you wish to spend more one-on-one time with a loved one or friend, designate one hour a week to doing just that. Take your partner out to lunch on a Saturday afternoon or to a movie. Invite a friend for a cup of coffee. Have parents or family members over for dinner. You will be pleasantly surprised how your relationships will develop.
Set Boundaries between Work and Play
You’ve had a rough day at work, and while you’d like to forget about the disagreement with your boss or a looming deadline, when you get home it plays over and over in your mind. Perhaps trouble is on the home front; a family conflict, or caregiving demands are making it hard for you to focus on the job. While the havoc of stress truly knows no bounds, there are strategies you can implement to reduce the impact:
Visualization is a powerful tool! Pick a place on your journey home and visualize outting the emotional “trash”; ie. your worries of the day, put them into the trash can. You can pick it up on the way to work the next day – if it pops into your mind – put it back in the bin.
Go for a walk around your neighbourhood or on the beach. Exercise and keeping active releases endorphins and reduces stress.
Listen to happy, uplifting music on your commute home – sing along to it. Imagining being happy can actually manifest that feeling.
Use your support networks; ie. your spouse, friends, or trusted co-worker. Our problems often feel worse when we keep them bottled up.
Accept the situations you can and can’t control, problem solve as best as you can, then choose not to worry but instead to focus on the tasks ahead. Worry is like a rocking chair – it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere. Good Luck !