Endings and beginnings are seductive and the start of a new year is particularly so. Even if we don’t believe in resolutions, we like to imagine that things will be somehow different in the coming year; we’ll get fit, watch what we eat, buy fewer shoes (or is that just me?), quit our job, try for a baby, start a new course or ‘be more…..’ – you fill in the gap.
And by now, a few weeks in, most of us have reverted back to the old way of being, the automatic way we move through our life. The busyness of our lives, the demands on our time. And we might feel disappointed in ourselves, that our hopes for the new year have evaporated.
I think there are two ways to approach this:
If we want our lives to be different, we need to identify how we want them to be different and create an achievable action plan. This might seem obvious, but a new year brings on a kind of magical thinking for most of us. We somehow think that the calendar ticking over will produce a change, without us having to do anything much about it.
Any plan for change has to be simple, measurable, achievable, realistic and be allocated a time for completion. For example –‘ I will go to yoga twice per week’ rather than’ I’ll get fit’. And we need to identify the barriers, the things that will get in our way.
I think a more useful way to think about change is to identify your values. What gives your life vitality and meaning? How do you want to spend your limited time on the planet?
Values are different to goals. Values point you in a direction; goals are something you can tick off. A goal might be to get married. Tick. The day after your wedding, the goal has been achieved. But a value around relationships, maybe something about being a loving and honest partner, is something that you can never tick off, it is something you show up to every day, even when things might get tough.
And a value is something that can keep you on track when you inevitably stray from your goal – because we will all stray at some time or another. When you realise you haven’t been to yoga for 3 weeks, reminding yourself of your values in relation to health and well being, and asking “what am I committed to?” provides an access point to getting you back to yoga class. Like a return to the breath in a mindfulness practice.
And if we can be gentle with ourselves when we have strayed from our values and return to what matters to us with kindness, we are more likely to stick to the changes we make in our lives.
You can read more about goal setting here.
You can complete and exercise on identifying your values here.