The Most Powerful New Years Resolutions are Often the Smallest
When we think of making New Years resolutions, we often think big and ambitious. It’s common that major changes are named as goals to achieve at the beginning of the upcoming year. Yet most of these goals aren’t usually achieved. That’s because these goals are often reactive and fit ideals rather than values. What do I mean by this? People often make New Years resolutions around what people think should make a successful and “happy” person. For example, we’ll hear people name goals to make more money and lose weight. However, people often struggle to name why these things even matter in the vision of the lives that they want to live.
We’re taught that if we make these big goals, then we’ll be seen as successful, which will eradicate sadness, anxiety, and other problems from our lives. First, that won’t work at all. We all experience tough situations in our lives. Secondly, we’re taught that when we don’t achieve these things, we’re lazy or unsuccessful.
Obviously, we can just get caught up in trying to prove these awful meanings untrue. That is why these types of goals are so ineffective. In fact, New Years resolutions can contribute to shame because they can make you believe that there’s something wrong with you when you don’t achieve the lofty goals that other people say you should aim to achieve.
No changes come easy. They require vulnerability. They require failures big and small. This is how we learn. –Dr. Michael Salas, PsyD
Rather than focusing on major changes to fill empty spaces, it’s best to figure out what kind of life you want to live. In our therapy practice, this is at the core of the work that we offer–helping people figure out who they are and what they want. To answer these kinds of questions, you have to identify what is important to you. Then you can identify the overall goals and experiment with small changes. Whether it’s in your relationships, work, home, or just self improvement, you’ll have to try some things out to see how it works out. I always recommend taking mindful risks. These are risks where you know you may end up failing, but you’re risking taking the chance because you know it’s the only way to reach a goal.
In the fantasy of New Years resolutions, we get some level of major gratification when we achieve the major end goal. Small changes, on the other hand, are rarely extremely gratifying. In fact, you sometimes don’t even notice you changes at all. Instead, we’ll often look back and realize, “oh, I’ve really made some changes in this aspect of my life.” Those changes don’t always make people happy. In fact, they can be frustrating and complicated. They can make you question yourself.
When I’m working with people, we often reflect on the importance of the journey, rather than the destination. When you work to make small changes, you learn and grow along the way. It’s the growth that people often value rather than a specific end goal that is superficial.
The last thing I hear from people when they make small changes is that they are able to practice gratitude. When we’re grateful for things, we can identify what we truly value rather than cling to ideals in order to impress others.
So as the New Year quickly approaches, look at what you want your life to be like. Then focus on the small changes that can help you get there.