We’ve heard it all before. Year after year as we stand on the precipice of a new year, people come out the woodworks with new things they aspire to accomplish. Generally, New Year resolutions set the tone for a miraculous mindset shift once the clock goes from 11:59 pm one year to 12 midnight into the new year. How on Earth do people expect to be renewed, restored, and recharged to do something different than what they have become accustomed to just because the calendar reads an entirely new year? It just simply does not make any sense. When people set resolutions, they are essentially setting themselves up for failure and disappointment. By definition and according to the Oxford dictionary, a resolution is a firm decision to do or to not do something whereas shifting your mindset is a process by which we replace dysfunctional beliefs with more productive ones that change options we consider. This mindset shift should be connected to our identity, not just our superficial wants that have little to no foundational basis or connectedness to who we truly are or want to be.
This is certainly not to say that you cannot set goals for the new year. This is to say that whatever those goals are, they should be tied to your value system, currently or aspired value system. These are beliefs and principles you feel are important in the ways you want to live your life in all facets. These are also important to consider when sending an unspoken message to others. When people think about you or speak things about you, do those things reflect the essence that is you? Do the qualities others see in you align with values you hope to cultivate in your daily living? It’s one thing to say that you want to be healthier or that you want to lose weight in the new year and it’s another thing for those goals to be rooted in meaning for you personally. Asking yourself what “healthier” means for you is very important as your “healthy” is nine times out of ten not what my “healthy” looks like. Tailoring your goals to your own personal needs and projected lifestyle is important. Becoming healthier does not have to always mean losing weight, it can mean reducing your sugar intake and being physically active at least 15 minutes each day. It can mean going to therapy on a more consistent basis or it can mean identifying triggers and steering clear of them as a better way to emotionally regulate.
What part of my identity are these goals and mind shifts tied to? Consider why you are trying to make a conscious decision to change something about yourself and your lifestyle. Is it important to you or is it something that society says should be important to you? Consider what the goals are rooted in. They should be aligned with your current or “aspired to have” values. In order to make this a bit clearer for you, make a list of your values or the values you aspire to align your life with. Things like peace, family, physical and mental health, and wealth may come up for you. With SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time measured) goals in mind, your aspirations need to be important to you and the direction you want your life to go in on a more consistent basis.
I cannot stress this one enough…setting goals around your process and not the outcome is very important. It can be very easy for us to look forward to the “end game” or the result of the goal that it can also become easy for us to overlook the process to achieve that goal. Considering the process by which you use to accomplish goals to become the best version of you possible will lend to your daily routines. What smaller goals do you hope to implement to achieve the greater picture? What seemingly minor alterations are you willing to make to your regular routine that will speak to you inching progressively closer to the desired outcomes? A book that I would highly recommend with this in mind is Atomic Habits by James Clear. The author proposes a wealthy number of options on how we can implement seemingly smaller tasks (hence the title, “atomic habits” I presume) within our daily routines to create growth and mindset shifts to accomplish larger goals. I always say take what you need and leave behind what you don’t. In this instance, when reading the book, there will be some things that resonate with you and other things that may not, but I would almost guarantee that something will stick to help you accomplish your goals.
If you have a general understanding that setting resolutions focus on the end goals, but mindset shifts focus on the process and smaller life structural tasks you implement to achieve those greater goals, then you will better grasp the concept of change and how you can “make it stick”. Go easy on yourself and do not expect an 11:59 to midnight change, but a gradual and intentional shift that will essentially bring you closer and closer to aligning yourself with who you really want to be and who you hope the rest of the world knows you to be. I challenge you this year to not set a new year’s resolution but a mindset and a lifestyle change. Embrace the journey and focus primarily not on the end goal.