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  • Susan Bush, PsyD, LCP

Cheers to the New Year!

Updated: 2 days ago


Goals. Resolutions. Intentions. Whatever you choose to call them, many of you are taking time today and tomorrow to reflect on the past year and seek to make some changes for the year ahead. Whether you believe in this practice or not, we all can agree that 2018 was a wild year and we could all use some mindful reflection. When thinking about 2019, it’s also fair to say that all of us could also make it a goal to implement a little more self-care. It’s not just a trendy buzzword; self-care is essential to living a well-balanced life.

Self-care.

Self-care doesn’t exactly have to be laborious or time consuming. Just listening to your favorite song or watching a TV program you love can be self-care if you frame it that way. It’s true that many of us do these self-care activities daily without really thinking about how nurturing it can be. Next time you do something that you enjoy, take a moment and think, “This is for me.” It’s especially useful for busy people who don’t feel they have time in their day to do something extra for themselves. Again, sometimes just changing the way you view things can be impactful.

When reflecting on goals for 2019, I’m reminded of what one of my friends once resolved to do a few years ago with his resolution: to do something less. I love that! Every year we try to think of what we can add to our plate, without necessarily taking something off. Since then, I’ve enjoyed thinking about what I want to do more of and what I want to do less of in the new year.

Setting smart goals.

Many resolutions that people set at the beginning of the year fall through within the first few weeks. If you are a “goal setter” for the new year, it can be useful to follow the SMART acronym when planning. SMART was first introduced in 1981 by George Doran who developed the concept to help with business management planning objectives. SMART can also be used for more personal goals.

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Achievable

R: Relevant

T: Timely

Let’s break it down.

Specific means the who, what, where, when and why’s of goal setting. You could have a goal to use your phone less. However, without specifics, it’s hard to put this goal into action. A more specific goal would be: “I will only use my phone between the hours of 8am-7pm unless in an emergency and I will not have my phone out during dinners anymore.” That’s a very specific goal that someone could understand and follow. Describe what your goal is in as many details as possible.

Measurable means that you can objectively mark your progress. Say your goal is to “feel better.” Well, how would you measure that you are making progress towards that goal? Are you using less negative words in your journal? Are you waking up in the morning and able to get out of bed quickly? How would you know that you’re actually achieving your goal? Describe how you will know you’ve attained your objectives.

Achievable refers to your goal being realistic. Think about how practical your goal is. Your goal needs to be attainable; otherwise, you will become frustrated and unmotivated working towards something that isn’t likely to happen.

Relevant means that this goal would need to be important to you personally. There is no sense setting a goal that you yourself don’t want to obtain or believe in. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to reach this goal?”

Timely means that your goal needs to be achieved in a realistic amount of time. Or, if your goal is a long-term goal, you need to be able to break it up into smaller parts that could be obtained sooner. If your goal has an end date that is very far off, it tends to be less motivating. Therefore, break your goal up into smaller pieces that can be achieved sooner.

Checking In.

Another aspect of goal setting is following up. Mark Twain once said, “Giving up smoking is easy…I’ve done it hundreds of times.” This means that while setting the initial goal can be easy, keeping up with it is the hard part. Many putter out after a few days or weeks of setting new intentions or resolutions. After setting a new goal, make it a habit to check in on it every week. Make sure that you are staying on track and take that time to reflect on whether or not you need to make any changes.

And finally, something we could all use in 2019 is a little more forgiveness. For ourselves. What are you beating yourself up for that isn’t serving you? What expectations do you have that are unrealistic if you were to expect them of your best friend? Cut yourself some slack; you’re doing a good enough job! We could also benefit from setting a goal to be a little kinder to ourselves. If you try to set a new goal and find that it isn’t working, give yourself a little forgiveness and readjust. There is nothing wrong with tweaking an intention after you’ve set it.

No matter how you choose to start your new year, take good care of yourselves and the ones around you.

Be well.

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