Three Months In: New Year's Resolutions
“We are very good at preparing to live, but not very good at living. We know how to sacrifice ten years for a diploma, and we are willing to work very hard to get a job, a car, a house, and so on. But we have difficulty remembering that we are alive in the present moment, the only moment there is for us to be alive.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
As you prepare for the springtime showers, flowers, and warmer weather, you might also be considering using this time to reflect on your goals for 2018. There are a lot of self-help articles out there on how to accomplish your goal for the year – this is not one of them.
The way I look at things, it doesn’t matter if you get to your goal (crazy, right?!). We learn so much about ourselves not in the achievement of our goals, but rather in the process of working towards them.
Don’t fret: I’m all about having goals and wanting to achieve certain outcomes. But when you try to fortune-tell the outcomes and obsess about the future, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s happening in the present and forget about how you feel right now.
Common examples of this include statements such as:
“Once I finish, then I’ll be okay.”
“I’ll feel so much better when it’s done and over with.”
“Things will be good when…”
Have you said these statements before? I definitely have. I know what it’s like to focus so much on the outcome that it doesn’t matter what it takes or how I’m affecting myself along the way.
From my teen years on, losing weight was always one of my goals. Each time I made the decision to lose weight, I became consumed. I would commit to a program, limit my intake of food, and start exercising. It seemed so easy at first. Just do it and I’ll reach my goal. Easy-peasy.
What I forgot, however, was how I felt along the way. As I committed to a program and limited my intake of food, I was constantly hungry and felt deprived. I craved so many foods that it would make my head spin. I thought that if I could just restrict and suffer with the sacrifice, things would turn out fine in the end. I thought that was the only way to get to the goal.
I had a very similar mindset with exercise. I hated every minute of it. Going to the gym was boring for me, a never-ending process of getting to the other side. I thought that once I got to the finish line, the emotional pain I was putting myself through would pay off. The exercise was just a means to an end.
After many attempts over the years, I shifted my approach to the losing weight to consider the process as a way to discover more about myself. This approach opened up a new way of looking at myself and the world around me. I allowed ups and downs to happen without intense criticism, discovered enjoyment in exercises, and reflected on my view of how I saw my weight.
Here’s what helped me along the path and where you might consider starting as you self-reflect:
1. Change the language around the goal
Check in to see how you’re speaking to yourself about your goal. Does it keep you focused on each step along the way or make you obsess about the end?
For instance, in my case:
- “Goal” became “journey.”
- “Losing weight” became “taking care of my body.”
- “Eating better” became “discovering new foods.
2. Practice mindfulness
If you find yourself obsessing about the outcome, you might start practicing mindfulness throughout the day. Sounds simple, right? I know how hard it can be to start, so start small:
- In the shower: Notice the temperature of the water. What does the shampoo smell like? How does the soap feel on your skin? Bring in all the senses!
- While driving: See if you can drive without the radio on. Notice the landscape around you change. Bring your attention to your hands on the steering wheel, your feet on the pedals, and your body in the seat.
By practicing mindfulness, if your thoughts start to wander towards focusing on the outcome too much, you can bring yourself back to your body.
3. Make it enjoyable
We can all be much too serious about getting to our goals. Let’s make the process fun!
On my journey, I found a Zumba class that resurrected my love for moving my body. I had never smiled so much during exercise before, and truly enjoyed every moment!
4. Care for yourself
As you reflect, see where self-care is part of your routine, and where it’s missing, try to incorporate moments of self-care in small, sustainable ways. Are you sleeping well, eating healthily, and feeling energized in your daily life? Are you being kind to yourself when things don’t go exactly as planned? Try to bring in forgiveness and compassion. You’re doing great!
Ultimately, you ask yourself: Can I accept myself for where I am right now while also working towards a goal of getting where I want to go?
I hope the answer will always be... Yes.
Erica Gebhart is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Life Coach focusing on helping individuals through their journey of self-exploration, healing, and self-love. She supports young adults and professionals through their journey to find meaning and direction in work and personal life through self-exploration and self-compassion.