Coming into 2021, our fight against the cynicism that seems to have dominated our perspective for much of the year still rages on. Where there once was hope that the new year would provide us with a path back to “normal”, we are continuing to battle many of the same challenges that defined this year. We still live our lives with a great deal of uncertainty, along with grief over what we lost in 2020 due to the pandemic and the myriad of other social crises we faced.
We may meet the mention of creating resolutions for the new year with laughter or a question of “what is the point?”. It is true, however, when we think about what’s to come, that we are more informed on how to navigate the uncertainty we face in the coming year from the lessons we learned in the one that’s passed.
The new year provides a time to consider what has been working well and how to maintain our growth and progress. In addition, the new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the challenges we face and ways to address them as we move forward.
Make a Space to Reflect
The pandemic has added complexity and complications to daily routines, decision-making, and how we spend our time. What were once simple decisions are now complex. Daily routines that were once set in stone required alterations due to online schooling, social distancing, working from home, or a reduced income.
When we’re in survival mode, or just trying to make it from day to day, it’s difficult to set aside the needed time to reflect on the direction of your life. Mindfulness is a way to help lessen the chatter of the mind and be in the present moment with yourself. You can achieve this sense of peace through meditation, listening to music, walking outside, yoga, or just noticing your breath. In this space, it is easier to build self-awareness. Consider what you appreciate about your actions in life and what areas could use some attention.
Living with Intention
This is a time to consider how the coping skills and routines you developed in 2020 are serving you. Instead of allowing the day to progress without your awareness, try cultivating a daily schedule that considers your needs and desires. So much of the time, our week flies by and we lose out on opportunities to set aside any time for ourselves.
Intention means creating space for what you truly care about and builds flexibility into your life’s patterns that can actually change and make a difference. Human beings have many areas of wellness: social, spiritual, physical, financial, emotional, and intellectual. Are there some areas for you that need more focus?
This year it could be beneficial to make a goal that is completely unrelated to the pandemic and is possible regardless of restrictions in place. This builds your sense of empowerment and can increase meaning in your life.
Focus on Values
When considering what you want to change, instead of focusing on what you “should” change, considering aligning a goal to your values. These are not based in other’s expectations for you, but are related to who you are as a person and what is important to you. This could be related to art, or the outdoors, or family. Having a goal that represents who you want to be will be more enjoyable and doable in this new year.
How to Make Successful Goals
If you want to set a certain goal for the new year, how do you make sure it doesn’t fizzle out at the end of January? Being motivated for a goal only goes so far, so it is useful to create a system that helps goals feel less daunting and more attainable.
First, finding an accountability partner who will check in with you or who may be working towards similar goals can help immensely with a sense of commitment. Also, how you create your goals can make a difference in their longevity. Using a framework like S.M.A.R.T. goals provide a way to make effective steps to new behavior.
- Specific: Instead of making a broad goal like “I want a healthier lifestyle”, consider cultivating something more concrete that promotes action, like meeting with a nutritionist to get new meal ideas. This helps provide direction to address specific concerns related to health.
- Measurable: Having a goal that is quantifiable helps mark progress which can keep your motivation alive once we hit those end-of-January-blues. This can look like setting a certain amount of money to save or planning for a specific amount of time spent on a new hobby.
- Achievable: Consider if your goal is something that can be accomplished with small actions. Remind yourself that everything does not need to change all at once and choose what feels within your grasp.
- Realistic: Does your goal actually fit into your daily schedule or is it more of a fantasy? Don’t make a goal to save thousands of dollars when there is no possible way. Instead, determine the actionable ways to save money that are doable.
- Time Specific: Set limits and milestone markers that correspond with specific time check-ins to keep you accountable. This aids in creating a deadline and progress markers so that your goals remain a priority instead of getting lost in “maybe next week”.
While setting and working towards intentions in the new year, remember to practice kindness and self-compassion. When we take a risk to make changes, we will slip up and find roadblocks, but that does not mean we are not progressing. 2021 will likely have its own uncertainties and challenges, but we are going into it with resilience and strength in tow.
The therapists at PURE Health Center are trained to help others create and work towards their goals. If you need support going into the new year, counseling can help. Please reach out today if you are interested in counseling services, setting goals for yourself, and achieving them.