by M.C. Parker
There’s nothing wrong with having goals and dreams
Setting goals like New Year’s resolutions give you something to shoot for. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? As the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Just be sure to take “baby steps” as discussed in the humorous Bill Murray-Richard Dreyfus movie What About Bob?
What do you want to change?
Huge, sweeping changes would be daunting for anyone, so, it’s much better to break it down into small “baby steps.” Changes both great and small all have a starting point – and that begins with an awareness that you want to change. One of the top goals is losing weight and the Mayo Clinic has some great tips. Other classic New Year’s resolutions include quitting smoking, drinking less, exercising more, and eating healthier – all wonderful changes that indicate a willingness to nurture and care for yourself.
If you’ve been using food, nicotine, alcohol or other drugs to self-medicate, you may want to begin thinking about what life would look like if you used these things in moderation, and then gradually sparingly or perhaps not at all.
Make a list of all the things you would like to improve in your life. It helps to write them down, read them out loud, think about how you might get to there.
Dream big, start small
Do you dislike your job? Do key relationships add to or detract from your happiness? It’s never too late to make changes. You’re hampered only by your imagination – so dream big, you only go around once. Begin taking small steps towards accomplishing the changes on your list.
Want to lose weight? Start by taking a 15-minute walk per day. That’s it. Once you can accomplish this daily, you’re ready to take your next baby step – maybe it’s two 15-minute walks per day or one 30-minute walk after dinner – you decide. From there you might join a gym and commit to going to one class per week, and gradually work your way up to a comfortable routine. Warning: exercise is addictive!
Want to quit smoking? Start by delaying your first cigarette of the day by 15 minutes. See if you can gradually wean yourself off smoking throughout the work day. Any time you make a change such as a move or a new job, these are actually great times to shed bad habits or at least rein them in. Again, you’re experimenting and pushing yourself towards being a non-smoker; and when you’re ready, it’s actually pretty easy.
Want a better job? If you’re not sure what type of job would make you happy, why not explore vocational counselling? If you already know what direction you want to go in, start researching the best professional associations and begin to attend meetings and network, perhaps find an internship or mentor. The trick is to surround yourself with people who are already doing the type of work you want to do.
Can you visualize yourself changing?
Change takes practice, it doesn’t happen overnight. Rather than simply stopping cold turkey, gradually replace an unhealthy behaviour with a healthy one. When you’re learning new, healthier techniques such as living as a non-smoker, joining a gym, cooking healthy meals, you can’t expect to hit it out of the park the first time or every time. Go easy on yourself.
Practice builds confidence and expertise for any activity; the trick is to get started and begin building it into your routine little by little, and before you know it, it’s become a new healthy habit in your life without even really trying.
For example, gradually replace smoking with meditation; junk food with healthier alternatives; inactivity for short walks; keep a journal to track the emotional triggers and determine healthy alternatives. For example, when you’re angry, rather than have a cigarette, practice meditation and deep breathing. If you’re lonely, rather than eat that doughnut or bag of chips, invite a friend for lunch or dinner. Instead of having a drink after work to deal with stress, hit the gym.
What would the outcome be?
The great thing about change is that instead of “some day,” you’re living the way you want to live now. Instead of seeing the future as some far off place, you’re living in the present moment, which makes for a much happier life.
By acting as though the future is already here, you start deciding to live your life as you want it to be right now. That’s where New Year’s resolutions come in. They help lay the groundwork for living how you really want to, not just reacting the same old ways and feeling guilty or hopeless about it.
Other people have done it: quit smoking, lost weight, moved toward healthier and happier living. If there’s anyone in your life you admire and who has made these types of changes, ask for their support.
New Year’s Affirmations anyone?
Rather than New Year’s Resolutions, how about a list of affirmations about you and your life? The word “affirmation” has a much more positive ring than the bossy “resolution.” Not only that, self-affirmations put a positive spin on life and “affirm” certain attitudes and behavior, focusing on important qualities that make each of us unique. Self-affirmations allow us to ride out our missteps and errors, so that we keep our eyes on the prize. Instead of “no smoking” or “no junk food,” think “I lead a healthy life,” or “I enjoy healthy foods that give me energy.”
Here are a few sample affirmations to get you started:
– I value myself and what I have to contribute.
– I let go of life-depleting cravings.
– I let go of excess body weight.
– I take in new life-enhancing mature habits.
– I see what needs to be done and commit myself to action.
Celebrate your triumphs
Throughout the year, take the time to note your special achievements and milestones on a slip of paper and store them in a jar. Come next New Year’s Eve or Day, go through the notes and be sure to pat yourself on the back for everything you’ve done. Once you’ve acknowledged all that you’ve accomplished, you’re in the right frame of mind to start setting new goals and affirmations for the coming year. Happy New Year, indeed!
Illustration credit: Freedigitalphotos.net
© M.C. Parker, 2013. Member, Professional Writers Association of Canada. For more information about this writer, please visit www.parker-press.com.