So the Christmas rush is over and the calendar has flicked over to a new year. “What now?”, we may ask ourselves. Traditionally the new year has been a time to make resolutions to lose weight, get fitter or give up bad habits. These are great resolutions but the beginning of a new year can potentially offer us much more than this. Twice this new year, I have heard quoted on the radio, “It is the things we haven’t done in our lives, that we regret most.” This is movingly true. So what would we like and how would we like our lives to be?
We have to begin with where we currently are and this will be different for everybody. All of us, at some point, feel varying degrees of low mood, anxiety, depression or a lack of confidence. It’s no good resolving to run a marathon when we’re struggling with things, so we start from where we are. It is, nonetheless, important to give ourselves something to work towards. Scientific evidence has shown that it is neurologically beneficial for us to set goals. So we can set goals and intentions and we need to ensure that they are at realistic and achievable levels.
Where then to start? The widely used acronym of SMART is very useful when we are setting goals:
Using this can help us decide what type of resolutions and goals we would like to make, so that we can attain them. They don’t have to be the stereo-typical ones we often make at this time of year. Maybe you would like to learn a language, join a choir, take up photography, visit a far-away relative, grow some vegetables, write a short story, meditate for 10 minutes a day or maybe you do want to lose 2 inches off your waist Then break these down in to short, medium and long-term goals. What would you like to achieve in the next week, the next month, the next three months and so on.
One of the difficult things once we embark on a new resolution is sticking to it. How can we stay on track? Having made sure each SMART step is covered, we can set up a diary on the computer or our phone, to log progress, reflect on changes we need to make and stay focussed on the goal. It can also be useful to pair up with a friend and work towards something together. Two minds are always better than one and when one is flagging, the other can be a useful source of motivation. Also remember that reward is important. We don’t have to wait until we reach the final goal, we can reward ourselves along the way as we reach smaller milestones. A good web tool to help with all of this and in goal setting can be found here.
In summary, the following points are useful to remember:
Begin where we are
Use the SMART acronym
Decide on the type of goals
Break them down, short, medium and long-term goals
Stay on track
Use a diary
Team up with a friend
The final thing I would add and which relates to the quotes I heard on the radio, is to consider, “if I look back on my life in twenty years time, how might I feel about the things I’ve done or haven’t done?” We can let this be our motivation to make gradual changes in our lives.