One of the most difficult challenges faced by a therapist is initiating lasting change in our clients. We are all creatures of habit. Some of us are uncomfortable but are comfortable being uncomfortable because it is familiar and a habit. Almost everyone I know has struggled in keeping their New Years Resolutions, myself included. We are forced to break those difficult habits to see real change in our lives. A few years ago I felt discouraged when I reviewed my resolutions and sought to find out how to make REAL change. Change that I could commit to and change that would….well, change my life. I wanted to share what I have found to be helpful.
1. Change “New Years Resolution” to “What do I want to see happen this year? “ A couple of years ago, I read something that said when making resolutions, ask yourself what you want to see happen in your life in the next year. I think the phrase “New Years Resolution” in itself is a joke to a lot of people and they associate it with something they know they probably won’t follow thru on. So that year I changed my “Resolutions” to “Things I want to see happen in 2003”. That shift in thinking really helped me not make the same promises to myself that I usually made: lose weight, go to church, and be closer to my friends and family. I started thinking about what I wanted to look and feel like, what I wanted my spiritual life to be like, and who I wanted to be closer with. That made me begin to think of how I would do that. These two shifts in my thinking lead to the next two suggestions.
2.Imagine what you would look like and feel like if you obtained your goals.
I imagined what I would feel like physically and emotionally if I lost 10 pounds. How would I feel with a more developed spiritual life? Who do I want to draw closer to and what would it be like to have them closer to me?
3. Decide what you need to specifically do to make your life changes.
Be specific with your goals and break them into smaller goals. For example, if one relationship I want to develop is with my Grandmother, what do I need to do in order to develop that? I need to talk to her more and visit her more. So I set a small goal being that I will call her twice a month and go see her once a month. Or if I want to get closer to my husband, I will plan a date night once a month and schedule to have lunch with him once a week. If you break it into smaller, specific pieces you’ll have more of a chance for success than if your goal is broad and feels unattainable.
4.ALWAYS write your goals down.
I suggest writing them in a journal or on your PDA. Keep them somewhere that you can easily see them when you need to. I keep mine in my journal and on my clipboard that I use at work everyday. If I put them on the mirror, I get used to it and forget it’s there. But if it’s somewhere I don’t see everyday but I have it readily available, I will look at it more frequently and keep myself on course. Which leads to my next suggestion.
5.Review your goals often.
Aside from looking at them frequently, I actually sit down and review them in my journal every quarter. I look at where I am at and remind myself what I need to be doing to make changes.
6.Find an accountability partner.
This is the best tip I can give you. Find someone you can share your goals with that can ask you how you’re doing with them. I always share my goals with my husband, which I encourage. But when I want someone to smack me around if I am not working on my goals, I don’t think he should be the one to do it. My best friend is my accountability partner. We share a lot of the same beliefs and I know she’ll support me. I also know she will let me know when I am being too hard on myself or not working hard enough. Find someone that is safe and that you can trust. It is also helpful to find someone who is working on obtaining his or her goals as well.
Obviously, these suggestions are things you can use all year with anything you want to change- not just New Years Resolutions. I hope this change in thinking will be helpful for you. All these steps have truly been a big step in me obtaining my goals. Usually by January when I review, things are such a part of my life that I forget they were actually “resolutions” the year prior.
If you individually or you and your spouse continually find yourselves making the same resolutions to change but see little progress, give us a call. We can help with suggestions as well as holding you accountability for the changes you wish to see. We offer individual as well as marriage counseling for the Indianapolis and surrounding areas such as Carmel, Fishers, and Noblesville. Call 317-569-0046 to talk with a therapist today!