As this New Year dawns on us, how about we don’t set rigid New Year’s resolutions, but instead see this year as a practice. There is some implied rule within resolutions that we’ll actually stick to them and when we don’t, we set ourselves up for the same old habitual mind traps that have kept us stuck in the past.
“I’ve failed once again,” arises, leading to a sense of sluggishness and the next thought, “What’s the point?”
There’s another way.
It’s important to set goals for ourselves and create plans to reach those goals; this is the underpinning of cultivating hope. Hope is our greatest antidepressant.
There are a few steps we can take to make a resilient New Year:
- Expect to stray—This is just a fact of life that sometimes we refuse to own up to. We’ll almost always wander with the goals we make. Maybe we commit to exercise and then we get sick or we set a path for meditation and our minds get caught up in daily busy-ness while days go by without practice. One scenario or another of your behavior wandering is going to happen, so now step #2.
- Don’t judge—Your behavior wandering is not a good or bad thing, it’s just the natural course of someone trying to make a change. Simply notice that you’ve wandered and where you wandered to so you can burn it into your memory and notice it sooner the next time. If judgments do arise, “I can never do this or what was I thinking,” simply note them just like you noted your wandering behavior and move to step #3.
Refocus—Gently bring yourself back to the plan you had created or see if it needs revisions.
It’s important to keep an open heart toward yourself as you practice; it’s not going to be perfect, so the question is can we accept the reality of our imperfections? If you’re perfect, you’re not human; unless we reframe it by saying we’re perfect with our imperfections.
There’s no need to wish you good luck, because making change is not about luck, it’s about having a good strategy of being kind and compassionate with yourself as you continue to wander off and gently guide yourself back to the object of focus.
So I’ll wish you a good heart during this year!
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
For more on this, read Goldstein's story Want change in the New Year? It starts with mindfulness.
This article was originally posted December 2011 on Mindfulness & Psychotherapy with Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.