by K.C. Lomonaco, Psy.D., R.N.
(This message was originally written to be read in January. We think it's just good advice anytime. Enjoy.)
What if you looked at this year as the same you going into this year? Stay with me for a moment. You didn’t magically change into someone different with different parts and pieces when the year changed. I think it's a falsehood to consider yourself new this year. What I want you to consider is that YOU are YOU and that YOU and you alone can make the changes you desire for this year. Consider this a time for evolution! I also don’t like the idea of resolutions. I like the idea of intentions. What are your intentions for this year? What changes would you like to make? And how do you want to go about making those changes? Research shows that making sweeping changes all at once is rarely sustainable. Imagine being told that you had 200 pounds to lose or that you had to repaint your entire house without help; it would be overwhelming. Even if you don’t have big changes to make this year, what small intentions might you set for yourself?
The idea of big changes is overwhelming and the HOW of how you get to the goal feels out of reach. But what if you were told that the healthy way to lose weight is 1 to 2 pounds a week? Or that painting a room has a specific order that will help you get it done in a beautiful way and then you can go room by room? Does that change your expectations and plans for achieving your goals? It certainly seems to make it more manageable! Breaking goals down into small manageable pieces allows you to see each step you need to take and methodically work your way through them. The brain easily gets overwhelmed when looking at large, taxing tasks. Many of us have big goals and we shouldn’t back away from that! AND it’s very important to make those goals manageable and achievable. Here are a few steps to help you get those intentions set and goals achieved:
Sit with your thoughts a bit and consider where you’d like to see changes. Is it in your health? Home? Relationships? Work? Finances?
Write down the changes you’d like to see and look through them. Consider their importance and rank order them in terms of their importance to you.
Once they’re ranked, take the top two and flush out the intentions you wish to set. Do you want more savings? A new car? Healthier eating? More connection?
With those intentions now break them down. What are small steps you can take each day, each week, each month to meet them. For example if your intention is to eat healthier, try making a big salad on Sunday or some other food that you can dole out to yourself for the week, or look at your grocery list and plan your dinners for the week ahead of time. If saving money is your intention, try putting 10$ from each paycheck in a savings account or get 20$ in cash every week and put it in a cookie jar. Small habits turn into big rewards.
Re-evaluate every week or so in the beginning. New habits take time and it's not just the actions but the thoughts around the habits that matter. When I started running I hated it (I kinda still do) but when I get tired I have to talk myself through it. I know I CAN run that 3 miles, but the question is usually WILL I? So that phrase plays over and over in my head as I run. Find a phrase or a statement that motivates you and keep repeating it. Post it around your home, make it your screen saver, whatever it takes but keep it in your mind! Believe you can and you will! The power of positive thinking is a powerful thing!
If things aren’t working, re-evaluate. If you have a bad day, don’t quit. You had a bad day, tomorrow is a new one. Reset, retry, restart. If you feel stuck, find someone to help hold you accountable or have a friend you can check in with! If you need help evaluating or talking through this stuff, let’s talk!
A cool podcast for other ways to hack your brain is The Happiness Lab by Laurie Santos, PhD. Start at season 1, episode 1 from 2019. She has a free online course too if you’re really looking to dig and evolve this year!