Posted on January 1, 2016 by Amy Rosechandler

image - How to make a New Year's resolution you won’t forget about next month

Setting goals you won’t keep isn’t just a waste of time- it can create cycles of guilt, inaction and avoidance that can worsen the problem you carefully set to work through!

Many of us engage in self-reflection over the holidays. At the Thanksgiving table, we share our gratitude with family and friends. December’s shopping and gifting may have you contributing to your favorite causes and giving back to the community. On New Year’s Day, we set goals for the year and think about how we want to grow and change. Whether you consult a therapist or work through your goals solo, knowing key ingredients for following through on goals might help.

Don’t be unrealistic: We tend to be optimistic when we set goals and over-estimate how well we will follow through. We resort to more extreme behavior to try and fall in line with unrealistic goals. After these extremes are not sustainable and our initial motivation and excitement start to wear, we are less likely to keep up progress.

Walk the path like a baby: Go with small steps. Start with the minimum it would take to help you feel accomplished. If you’ve been thinking about starting an exercise routine, try out a cardio class once a week. If that’s working for you, take it from there. Researcher Tessa Amabile, a Harvard Business School professor who focuses her work on creativity and productivity, reports in The Progress Principle that people are more motivated intrinsically when they experience progress.

Be kind to yourself: Criticism, fear and shame aren’t very effective motivators for change. Research by Brene Brown and Kristin Neff have shown powerful indicators toward this. Support, encouragement, and self-compassion work much better at guiding us toward our goals. This support can come from others- but guess what? Supportive self-statements, compassion and kindness can also come from inside. Think about the kind words you’d say to a friend trying to make a deadline or achieve something big- now tell those words to yourself. Notice how you talk to yourself and try to shift your internal dialogue to reflect kindness and understanding toward your work and goals.

If you find yourself falling back on commitments you make for yourself, you are not alone- many people try, and end up struggling to keep motivation and focus on goals. Mental health counseling may be the extra support needed to set realistic goals and keep you on track for progress. Counselors are great motivators, helping you feel accountable and focused. They also know a lot about how people work and think-that’s what psychology is all about!

You might be surprised about how many of the resolutions you set are related to mental health. Caring for our mental health means more than addressing problems like anxiety or depression. Attending to mental health can be about prevention too- creating space for relaxation, strengthening our relationships or living our priorities. Furthermore, incorporating awareness that all goals have some psychology behind them might help you keep the goals you set.

Think about a consultation with me to learn more about how to use your own unique strengths and resources to help you keep your resolutions!

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