Many of us are wary about making New Year’s resolutions for fear that we may experience failure. But here’s an approach to change that involves designing your own path forward—one that puts your own dreams first.
What do you want?
From a young age, many of us got into the habit of doing what’s expected of us rather than following our own dreams. Getting an education, getting a marriage partner—even making resolutions—are things that we’re told we should do.
No wonder we may occasionally feel like we don’t fit in or that we’re failing miserably at things that everyone else seems to do easily. You may be surprised how much easier your path becomes when it’s one you design yourself.
1. Take time for self-reflection
On a day when you’re feeling reasonably relaxed, find a time and place where you won’t be disturbed—even if that means hiding in the car or the bathroom.
Take some deep breaths to release tension and clear your mind. Ask yourself what you want and simply notice what comes to you. You might get words, or a picture in your mind, or a feeling. Write down (or type) what comes to you with as much detail as possible.
Build a home gym? Fabulous. Move across the country? Write it down. Start a business? Of course. Don’t let the critical voice in your head start debating you and telling you why you can’t do it.
2. Set clear goals
Vague goals, like taking better care of your health, provide very hazy guideposts, whereas the commitment to exercising twice a week or eating five servings of vegetables a day are clear, specific, and measurable.
3. Set short-term and long-term goals
If goalposts are too far away, people are more likely to procrastinate or avoid sticking to the plan, because they knew they had lots of future time to get things done.
If there are too many strict short-term deadlines, however, a resolution-maker could feel like a failure for missing a mini-goal and throw in the towel. Creating stepping-stones toward the big goal makes room for set-backs while still moving forward.
4. Set approach-oriented goals
It seems that people who create approach-oriented goals are more successful than those who have avoidance-oriented goals.
Approach-oriented goals energize emotions and behavior toward something you want (achieving good grades so that you can enjoy feeling competent).
Avoidance-oriented goals , on the other hand, are those in which you move away from something you don’t want or you perceive as a punishment, threat, or risk to health (you make the decision to reduce your sugar intake, so you don’t have a heart attack).
5. Find reliable support systems
Rather than focusing blame on people who don’t give you what you need (and shifting energy from your goal), find a person or group who can be your cheer squad.