New Year, New You?

Why every moment is a chance for a new life, and how to make goals that stick.

– by George

New Year is fast approaching! Whatever 2018 has been for you, 2019 is almost here and with that comes the chance for regeneration, growth and possibly some new directions. It’s undeniable that many of us look to this time of year as an opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to put the past behind us. In my opinion this wave of optimism is a very positive, healthy thing – it’s a real opportunity to reflect on all areas of our lives and see which areas are already working well, and those areas that could possibly do with a bit of improvement. However, this also has the effect of making many of us give this time of year a great deal of significance in our heads, as it can often feel like a turning point of sorts; at least, that’s what we’d like it to be.

There are two questions I’d like to address in this article. The first is, why is it chiefly this time of year that we ascribe so much importance to in terms of making changes in our lives? Are April, July or September inappropriate for this, for example? Secondly, when it comes to making resolutions and goals, how can you really make sure that they stick, instead of being all done and dusted by the middle of February?

Let’s start with the first question. For those of you familiar with mindfulness, or books such as The Power of Now, you will be well aware that the only moment that ever exists in our lives is the present one. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today, and this moment. When viewed from the perspective of mindfulness and the importance of the present moment, the very idea that New Year is the only time for making major changes in our lives seems absurd. Yet for many of us, this is how we tend to view this time of year, with New Year’s resolutions having become a cultural norm and even an expectation in some cases. Friends and family ask us what our resolutions are for this year and look to tell us theirs in return. Nobody asks us what our Spring resolutions are, or our August ones, however. It seems that after February is done we tend to stop thinking about changing or improving our lives altogether; at least we tend to stop talking about it.

It’s essential to remember that every day of your life is a blank canvas, a new book to write in, if you will. Each day is an opportunity to put the past behind you and start again, getting back on track with your dreams, goals and aspirations and being the person you really want to be. We don’t have to wait until some specific significant future time to do this; in fact, most of the time this is simply an act of procrastination, a ego-strategy to delay making changes in our lives, which can often be perceived as difficult or scary. Setting New Year up in our minds as this really big, significant thing also has the effect of making us set goals that are overly ambitious and as a result putting a lot of pressure on ourselves. Setting goals and targets can, and should, be a fun, light, and motivating thing to do, not an obligation or something you’re doing because you feel like you ‘should.’

This leads onto the next question, about setting the right goals and how to make sure you keep to them. Going back to the previous paragraph, the first thing to consider when setting any goal is how much you want it. If you really want to achieve something with every fibre of your being, you will find a way to achieve it. If your desire is not so strong, however, or if you’re merely doing something out of duty or obligation, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick to your goal because it won’t be important enough for you to work at.

A way you can find out how much you want something is to ask yourself why you want that particular thing or goal. In other words, why do you want to achieve what you want to achieve? Who will you become from achieving it? What will it mean for you and your life? What will it allow you to do/be? The more you can get present to why you want something, the more reasons you have for wanting it and the clearer you are about the difference it will make, the more likely you are to consistently work towards and succeed at whatever it is that you want.

If you have a clear goal in mind and are sure that you want it, there are certain steps you can take to make sure that you actually keep to your word. The first, and most important, thing, is having an appropriate structure that will allow you to fulfil on your goals. If it’s a diet for example, write down what you’re going to eat on each day and have it printed and visible on your wall. If your resolution is to get out of debt, write a clear, realistic action plan that will have you do that, and by when you will do each thing – again, print this out and have it visible. If your goal is to change your way of thinking or being, make something that will remind you of what kind of person you want to be and again have it be visible on a daily basis. Plans and reminders are like the cement that will allow you to continuously build a new house for your life. Also make sure you print out your ‘whys’ and use images to imprint a picture in your mind of how you’d like your life to be. Having this be consistently present for yourself will greatly aid in sustaining your motivation to succeed.

I also strongly recommend selecting a group of people to let in on your plans, once you’ve made them. Choose people in your life who are supportive of you and won’t let you get away with not doing what you said you’d do. Tell them what your intentions are and why you want what you want, what you plan to do and how/by when. Allow yourself to get really invested in your goals, both mentally and emotionally. Ask them to share their goals and plans with you as well, and be ‘accountability buddies’ for each other. Telling people in your life about your goals and plans also has the added benefit of reinforcing them in your head and adding to your motivation to achieve what you’ve set out to do. Check in with each other regularly and make sure you’re sticking to your plans.

Remember also that to err is to be human. We all make mistakes, and we all have so-called ‘bad’ days where we break our word to ourselves. It’s important to remember on days like those that this is perfectly normal and almost to be expected. Be kind to yourself whenever possible and you’ll find that not only will you soon be back on track, but your progress will be faster than you ever expected. And most importantly of all, if you find yourself reading this article in March after having ‘flunked’ your New Year’s resolutions, all is not lost. Simply set new goals that are achievable and work, print out your plans and whys and start again. There is no perfect time to change your life, and believing so is simply an illusion to avoid change. Yet without change life becomes dull and stagnant, and you don’t get to fulfil on the amazing and infinite potential that you, as a human being, possess. Remember this as you begin the journey of this new and exciting year.

Happy New Year to you all!

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