If you are reading this, you may be feeling as if you made it through nine rounds in a boxing ring or are a piece of clothing that has been left on the spin cycle for too long. 2020 was not an easy year by any means. On the other hand, the hardships of 2020 have left many of us feeling eager and motivated to change the course of 2021. With the start of a new year come new feelings of hope and encouragement. Consider the following when setting and working toward your 2021 resolutions to help increase your odds of success and maintain a healthy level of motivation.
Changes From 2020
When you are thinking about setting goals or resolutions for 2021, it is important that you consider where you are starting from. COVID-19 has brought about many changes; some are temporary, while others are permanent. The increase in mental health issues, the turn toward telemedicine and virtual instruction, the introduction of travel restrictions, and the ways in which we perform our job duties are just some of the changes that we have seen this past year. It is important to take these changes, whether temporary or not, into consideration when creating your resolutions so that your resolutions fit your current reality. That way, the resolutions will be applicable to the current times, and your expectations will reflect that.
Do’s and Don’ts of Setting Realistic Expectations
Be Flexible With Your Thinking
Let go of the “all or nothing” mentality that can contribute to us abandoning our resolutions entirely. All-or-nothing thinking is considered a thinking mistake, and it occurs when we engage in extreme ways of thinking and behaving. An example would be abandoning your diet for the entire day, week, or month because you slipped up and had that cookie you'd been trying to resist. When you slip up or make a mistake toward your resolution, try not to let it throw you completely off and send you running in the other direction. Change is progressive, and mistakes and mishaps are bound to happen. Try to take them in stride and embrace them as part of the growth process.
Be Patient and Kind to Yourself
Acknowledge and reinforce even the smallest progress toward your resolutions. Change is hard, and with change comes feelings of insecurity, fear, anxiety, and worry. When you are successful in moving toward change, acknowledge it, and reward yourself in healthy ways. Treat yourself to a nice bath, takeout from your favorite restaurant, or the reality TV show that is your guilty pleasure. Reinforcing or rewarding your efforts can help you stay on track and sustain your motivation levels.
Take the Word Should Out of Your Vocabulary
After the year we’ve had, it is imperative to not compare yourself to where you were a year or two ago. Even more important, don’t compare yourself to others. COVID-19 has changed the entire landscape of our reality, and some of us have experienced more change and loss than others. Comparing yourself today to where you were in the past or to other people now can lead to feelings of discouragement and contribute to your setting unrealistic resolutions for yourself.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help
Asking for help is a skill that can feel difficult to engage in, but it may be the determining factor in successful achievement of your resolutions. We all need help at some time or another, so don't be ashamed to reach out.
Being intentional with your thoughts and engaging in simple behavioral strategies such as positive reinforcement can contribute to healthy resolution setting and achievement. Incorporating the facts of today’s reality can help you set realistic resolutions for yourself and your family. Setting resolutions and working toward them can feel overwhelming and scary. Breaking an overall goal into smaller goals can help your resolution seem attainable.
Hopefully, this past year has opened your eyes to how strong you are and that you are capable of persevering through tough times. There will be tough moments along the journey of change, but by planning for the challenges, you can persevere.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.