Setting and Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year where many people are reflecting on the year that has passed and the year that is to come. They look back and analyze successes and failures, and also try to push themselves forward by setting goals. But how beneficial are these New Year’s resolutions?

Setting beneficial goals

Often, people create their resolutions based on their habits – i.e. exercise, eating, social media, smoking, drinking, etc. Whether they want to do more or less of these things isn’t the challenge, but breaking a pattern of a daily habit. So how can you set yourself to have success here? Understanding your decision making; this can either help or hinder your goals.

What is valuable is to first understand what has prevented you in the past from making these changes – what beliefs you have held that stop behavior change. For example: “I want to exercise more” followed by “a gym membership is too expensive,” “There’s no time between work and family.” These are thoughts that allow it to be okay to continue to not exercise, it creates an illusion of valid excuses. Now, of course these things do make it more challenging to exercise – but not impossible.

Finding the right motivation

This is where the importance of having a strong motivator comes in. Maybe you have decided you need to exercise more because your last doctor’s visit didn’t go so well, or you’re finding it harder to find energy for things you enjoy. Changing the thoughts that come after “I want to exercise more” will help with the follow through of these goals. For example, “I don’t have to pay to exercise. I can go for a run or do at-home exercises,” and “I want to be healthier for my family.”

The focus here is to identify the goal and the motivation. This is the foundation of change. You can be successful with your New Year’s resolutions if your incentive is strong enough. If the reason is simply “it’s a new year” that likely won’t be enough – you’ll need to dig a bit deeper than that because likely that strong motivator is just under the surface.

3 Common Barriers to Behavior Change

3 Barriers Preventing Change

There is a theme that runs constant in therapy; no matter what it is specifically you are struggling with, therapy focuses on what you can do to change. However, the role of a therapist is to reflect to you how your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are preventing you from change – not actually make the change for you. Here are three examples of barriers that prevent change from taking place:

  1. “I’ve already changed enough” – Some people feel change is finite – that once you have already made some changes there is no more work to do. However, this is not the way life works! There are always going to be unexpected life events that force change and growth. It is important to be flexible and open-minded in order to be able to cope with new challenges and grow.

2. “I can’t” – Negative self-talk is one of the biggest ways to keep yourself stuck. If you start to pay attention to your thoughts and notice a lot of negativity – you are probably keeping yourself from change. If you catch yourself saying “I can’t”, try and balance the thought out with something positive – remind yourself of something you can do or something you feel good about!

3. “It’s happening to me” – This is the idea that change is out of your control. When it comes to how OTHER people behave – you would be right! No one can control what someone else does, however you can control or change how you respond to these people. You have full control and responsibility over your behaviors. So, if you are finding that you are placing blame outside of yourself, do a bit more reflection and think about what is possible for you to do differently in the situation.

It may be time to learn how therapy can help you change.

These are just a few examples of how you may be preventing your own change and growth. Always remind yourself that you are capable of change as long as you want it and are motivated! The reasons may vary, and what holds you back may be deep rooted, but anything is possible when you are honest with yourself.

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