Our resident psychotherapist, Leilani Mitchell, advises on how to embrace the new year and beyond and make that change.
It’s that time of year again – the evenings are dark, the cold, wet weather is here and last year is a memory. This is when people often make decisions about the future – resolutions to lose weight, to change jobs, to give up chocolate. If you’ve already fallen off the particular ‘wagon’ that you set yourself, don’t worry.
Firstly you’re not alone. Millions of people make New Year resolutions and don’t carry them through. Secondly it’s not too late. You can make changes at any time of the year, not just the 1st January.
It’s best to start with a really honest assessment. Ask yourself: What do I want to change? How come I want to change it? On a scale of 1-10 how much do I want to change it? Then consider whether what you want to change is for you or to please someone else. How motivated are you to change this thing? Change can be challenging – are you really willing to go through that discomfort? What will you lose? This may seem like a strange question and, at first, you may think ‘nothing’. Be really honest with yourself. For example, it might be that you want to lose weight. You may lose the ability to feel bad about your weight, which is a familiar place for you. Human beings prefer familiarity even if it is uncomfortable.
You may lose the ability to be able to talk to your friends about it and get sympathy and support. We all need attention and one way we can get it is by continuing to have problems and get attention from our social group or family. There may also be other things you will lose that may be unique to you. How might you sabotage achieving your goal? Again, be really honest.
Often we unconsciously sabotage or undermine ourselves. By being aware of the ways we might do this we can plan for it and as a result are much less likely to sabotage ourselves. Write your goal down. Studies have shown that you are much more likely to achieve your goals if you write them down. When you have really identified what you want ñ think about these questions*:
- Is making that change achievable? – has at least one other person in the world achieved this?
- Is it positively worded? What are you going to do rather than what are you going to stop? What are you going to have instead of what are you going to lose? You are much more likely to achieve you goal if you focus on what you will gain.
- Is it sensory-based? How will you/ others see, hear, physically feel, smell, taste as a result of this change? The more that you can picture your goal and ground yourself in it the more likely you are to succeed.
- Can it be finished? – How will you/anyone know when you have finished doing this? How many/ how often/ how long before you know you have got what you wanted? You need to be clear at what point you will have achieved your goal.
- What is the context? – Where are you going to do this? When are you going to do this? With whom are you going to do this?
Whatever your aim, get some support – change can be hard, unconsciously we tend to find ways to keep things the same, even if we are not happy with them. Consider in advance what sort of support you want and where it could come from. Then go and ask for it.
Don’t expect perfection from yourself, this is a sabotage. Most changes happen over time. We have certain habits and we may at times fall back into old ways of being. If this happens, don’t worry – it is part of the process. Forgive yourself and get back to your programme. Eventually you will learn and integrate your new habit. Go for it!
* Based Transactional Analysis Counselling in Action by Ian Stewart ( 1989) www.thelinkcentre.co.uk