I used to think there was something almost magical about making resolutions on New Year’s Eve. I’d approach the whole thing as this huge momentous occasion whereby I’d end one year as one person and begin the next as another. When that didn’t materialize, I’d feel like I had failed. Nowadays, instead of making resolutions, I just like to do some regrouping and it’s not necessarily done only at the New Year but rather, several times throughout the year. I often do this seasonally or at a time when I’ve got a bit of a breather between busy periods.
Regrouping allows me to honour myself by realizing that there are good things about me and I don’t need a whole new start with a whole new me…I simply want to nudge myself gently in a new direction on a few matters. Regrouping allows me to make more realistic changes because I’m not attempting to change everything all at once; rather, I can set smaller goals more frequently throughout the year. Regrouping allows me to look at any negatives that may be a part of my life and to free myself of them. Regrouping allows me to look at my future in a loving, positive manner rather than approaching it with a list of demands on myself that will simply weigh me down even more.
This is what regrouping looks like for me:
1) I write down any negative aspects of my life – whether it be a person’s treatment of me, a traumatic event that has occurred, a bad habit that I’ve developed – anything that I carry around as a burden on my heart. As I write these out, I allow myself to feel the hurt of them one last time. If I need to get angry about it or cry it out or hit a pillow while I yell it out, then that’s what I do. When I feel like I’ve worked it all out of my system, I burn the papers that they are written on. I stare into the fire, concentrating on the flame almost as if meditating while I allow my heart to let go and release these burdens into the universe. With my students, we used to make a “Let go and let God” can at the beginning of each school year. Every time we had one of these burdens we’d write it down and give it over to God by putting it into the can. Certainly, you could do this and then open up the can a few times a year and burn what’s in it but with my students, for safety’s sake, I offered an alternate suggestion of taking the papers and tearing them into tiny little bits and then using them as confetti to throw up in the air and celebrate letting them go.
2) Once I’ve released the negatives, I start looking at embracing the positives. I’m a very positive, optimistic person most of the time but being quite sensitive and one who bears my heart quite openly, if I get caught up in negatives, I can get temporarily mired down in them. So, it’s good for me to make a concerted effort to refocus my thinking towards the good and the positive. One of the things I’ve done in recent years has been the idea of choosing a word for each new year.
The first year I did it my word was Serenity. My boyfriend and I were on the verge of breaking up and there was a lot of tension in my life so I really needed to remind myself to look for ways to infuse my world with serenity. During that year, whenever things became stressful, I made a conscious effort to slow my breathing, to quiet my voice, and to walk away and think things over before speaking. I’m a pretty patient person but my patience grew by leaps and bounds doing that and so did my inner peace.
Last year’s word was Faith. I had been given a few kicks to my self-confidence and had major financial issues caused by the breakup with my boyfriend. I felt like I was in a bit of a mess and had no clue how to make my way out of it. I went through the year constantly reminding myself to have faith in God, in my friends, in my family, and in myself as sources of support. I never gave up and always looked for alternate solutions, always brainstorming and trying out new possibilities, and I worked up my courage to try out some of them despite it requiring me stepping way outside of my comfort zone. Year’s end finds me having worked out the majority of these issues and looking forward with confidence.
This year my word is going to be……..well I’m not sure exactly which word but I know the thought I want it to convey. I want something along the lines of Grow, Bloom, Thrive. I feel like now that I’ve found peace through stressful times and how to have faith in myself and others, I’m ready to really grab life by the uhhhhhhhhh….whatever part of life is best to grab….and go out there with gusto to show the world what I’ve got to offer.
3) You may get the impression that I never make any actual “goals” – something specific and measurable, but I do. When I set goals, I begin by looking at the various aspects of my life. These will vary from person to person but can include things like health, business/career, home, family, spirituality, personal development, finances, friendships, and so on. By thinking through the different areas of my life (you can also do this by thinking of the different roles you play in your world), I can make sure that I’m looking at a well-rounded, balanced picture.
Once I determine which areas I want to work on, I start setting some goals, using the SMART formula. SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. It’s important to consider these when setting your goals for the best possible chance at success. For example, your goal might be “eating better”. But when you look at a broad goal like this, you may start to realize that there are several issues with it. For one thing, “eating better” can mean so many different things. It is so all encompassing that it is difficult to measure whether or not you are succeeding and this can be discouraging. It’s very open-ended and with no end in sight, you can become very frustrated.
A better example of a SMART goal would be “to eat 3 servings of vegetables per day for a month”. Now, of course, you may want this to ultimately turn into a lifelong habit but give yourself a smaller time frame to begin with. In this way, you’ve created a measurable goal – you can measure the servings according to your country’s food guide to ensure that you’re actually getting a serving, you can keep a chart to keep track of the 3 servings per day over the course of a month and you’ll know very clearly whether you meet with success or not.
By setting smaller goals, more frequently than just on New Year’s Eve, you can also meet the requirements in the A and R of SMART goals. The reason most people fail in keeping their resolutions is that they are looking for huge changes overnight. Setting SMART goals means that you are breaking them down into smaller steps that are indeed attainable and realistic. Remember the old adage: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!
If your ultimate goal is a much bigger one, chop it up into its components and work on one component at a time. You might even want to break that component down even further into micro steps. For example, maybe one of your goals is to set up an online store by February 1. Micro goals could be such things as: a) research 5 different online sales venues b) choose the online sales venue you’d like to try c) create a banner for your shop’s webpage and so on. Each of these micro goals could be plugged into your calendar for specific days and times.
So, are you making any resolutions or setting any goals at this time of year?