We are almost half way through 2018! Seems impossible to me. We move through time and seasons so quickly. Remember January? Mid-winter and hoping for Spring. Did you think about goals you wanted to accomplish in 2018, or decide to complete some undone tasks? You know those New Year's resolutions? How are those going for you?
One day I may be feeling good because I’m following through with my resolutions and making progress toward my goals, or I may be feeling a little discouraged or downright disheartened because I feel like I’m failing…maybe failing again.
According to statisticbrain.com, nearly half (46%) of adult Americans made New Year's Resolutions and just over half (64%) of us are still keeping them after 1 month. I wonder what that stat is after 5 months? Take a look at the Top 10 Resolutions of 2017:
1. Lose Weight
2. Getting Organized
3. Spend Less, Save More
4. Enjoy Life to the Fullest
5. Staying Fit and Healthy
6. Learn Something Exciting
7. Quit Smoking
8. Help Others in Their Dreams
9. Fall in Love
10. Spend More Time with Family
I read a brief summary of research findings by Gabrielle Oettingen, of New York University, on positive thinking. They found that too positive of thinking can result in the increase in symptoms of depression. That seems counter-intuitive. Can you think of why that might be and how this can be related to our resolutions and sometimes feelings of discouragement?
Here is one reason - If I choose a goal that is too big, or that has many obstacles that I either overlook or don’t plan for, I can become more discouraged and have increased feelings of powerlessness when I'm unable to accomplish a goal. I may believe, and use that experience, to further support the negative feelings that I have about my situation or self, of powerlessness, ineffectiveness, etc. This scenario is probably not going to help me feel that I’m moving closer to the life that I want.
The research also found that being positive and realistic about goals, thoughtful about what the possible obstacles may be and how they might be overcome, resulted in less depressive symptoms. How does this connect to our resolutions and goals? When I choose realistic resolutions and set achievable goals (goals are more rewarding if they are a challenge but not insurmountable) and I accomplish those resolutions or make progress toward the goal, the study found that I am likely to decrease my symptoms of depression – or feelings of discouragement - and increase my feelings of accomplishment. Another helpful way to lessen feelings of depression is to express gratitude and count blessings!
How do we set helpful goals? Here are a few tips:
1. Set Measurable Goals
Set goals that are appropriately challenging and that can be measured objectively. “Objective” may be selecting a goal with actual measures – something that can be counted (saving money or losing weight) or with steps/tasks that can be accomplished that are moving us toward our goal (shopping less or not eating a late night snack)
2. Be realistic
If I have a salary of $50,000 a year I can’t expect to create a budget and save $60,000 dollars the same year. If I haven't ran since high-school I can't expect to run a marathon next weekend! I CAN make a budget and determine the amount I can save based on that budget with realistic goals. I can decide to plan time to increase my physical exercise - maybe walking 4 times a week or going back to the gym.
3. Consider the obstacles
What might be challenges or obstacles for me? My obstacles may be different than yours. Decide on steps that I can accomplish that will help me overcome the obstacle and move me closer to my goal.
4. Get Support & Celebrate
Most of the resolutions in the list above are fairly big or significant goals. Most can’t be accomplished immediately but rather will be accomplished over a period of time. So ask a friend to support you – maybe help you see those possible obstacles, hold you accountable and provide encouragement when you are struggling or succeeding! And remember to celebrate! Choose something as a treat to reward yourself that as you accomplish your steps.
Like anything else we want to do well, setting goals and resolutions takes practice. Give yourself grace and don’t be afraid to reset or redefine goals as you go along. An unexpected obstacle or challenge may occur - reconsider and reset. Hopefully our goals help us get closer to the life that we want. And, although resolutions are traditionally made at the start of a new year, there's no rule that says you can’t set resolutions at the start of a new day! Think Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, Anne in Anne of Green Gables, or the orphan Annie in Annie – influential, although fictional, people that looked to tomorrow for a new beginning!
We have many things in our lives that are out of our control or our sphere to manage. Choosing a few goals or setting resolutions that we genuinely value can help us gain a sense of control and help us to learn to live life well.