Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Seeking Balance in Your Goals for the New Year


As we enter the new year, many people set goals for themselves. New Year’s resolutions, we call them. How many people really expect to keep them? How many give up the fight before the end of January? What actually enables us to persevere toward the goals that we establish for ourselves?

Below are ten tips that may actually help you keep your new year’s resolutions this year!

1. Assess your current situation in all areas of life and think about what you want to accomplish this year. This includes your physical body, your mind (reading, education, etc.), your relationships with others, your vacation planning, and even your spiritual life.

2. Set clear, specific goals that are realistic and measurable, and develop a monitoring system to keep track of your goals. For example, a goal of losing one pound every two weeks, for a total loss of 26 pounds for the year, may be more realistic than trying to lose 26 pounds by the end of January. A special log or journal, a chart on the refrigerator, or even a cell phone app are all practical means of rating your progress.

3. Find a supportive partner or group that can hold you accountable and be cheerleaders for you as you make progress. Choose wisely. Look for those who can provide constructive feedback, not those who punish you for your “failures” or try to motivate you through shame.

4. Reinforce your goals, one step at a time, with a positive focus and self-talk. I know a competitive bullseye pistol shooter who had 3 x 5 cards on her bathroom mirror, on the refrigerator, above the kitchen sink, and even on the dashboard of the car. They all said: “I can shoot tens. I like to shoot tens. I feel good when I shoot tens. It is like me to shoot tens.” She went on to win the New Jersey state championship, beating all of the men in the state! She was humble in attitude toward others, but worked on developing positive self-talk in her quest to continue meeting her personal goals.

5. Cultivate a touch of “positive pessimism” by which you identify potential barriers to the achievement of your goals so that you can problem-solve and overcome those barriers. What could go wrong? What options do you have for facing and solving those problems? This can help you balance and maintain your optimism and hope.

6. Recognize and accept that learning new habits is hard, as is letting go of old habits. You are rerouting the neurochemistry of your brain! While change is difficult, it is also possible. Research in neuroscience teaches us much about what works and what does not. This article, for example, is putting in layman’s terms what the research reveals is most helpful.

7. Put high value on wellness behavior and devalue behaviors that lead to poor health. Be sure you are addressing your perceived needs in a way that leads to healthier behavior.

8. Learn to delay gratification. When you were in school, hopefully you learned to reward the self-discipline of doing homework with permission to go and play. Students who reversed those priorities usually did not do as well. Many never even completed their homework since they played first and kept playing.

9. Take an active-mind approach to life, addressing directly the challenges life brings your way. Passivity of mind and avoidance coping lead to unhealthy behavior.

10. Enhance your problem-solving skills even further and approach life’s challenges with faith that God has provided you with the tools you need to accomplish positive goals for the New Year.

Ronald S. Newman, Ph.D. is a psychologist at the Lakeview Professional Center on Route 30 who can be reached at: write2balance@gmail.com. 

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