photo credit: Joel’s Goa Pics via photopin cc
2014 already has both its feet firmly planted on the ground. As you embark on the next 12 months, you likely have given some thought to what you want the year ahead to look like. That looking ahead reflects your hopes and dreams for your life. Many people focus on new year’s resolutions that are about something they want to leave behind or change, for example, worry, sadness, relationship problems or compulsive behaviors, such as over-eating. In other words, resolutions tend to center on losing baggage, breaking through blocks, and getting past obstacles to a happier life.
New year’s resolutions are likely to be a mixed blessing at best. On the one hand, they tap into our vision of our better selves – who we can be once we (or the world) gets out of our way. On the other hand, new year’s resolutions often stem from feelings of personal inadequacy. Unfortunately, commitments to change made from believing we are not good enough are often doomed to fail. Why is this?
It’s human nature to want to forget about feeling inadequate. And resolutions remind us of all the ways that we imagine we don’t ‘measure up’ in our own minds, or the minds of others. So we can end up forgetting about our resolutions too, to take our minds off of feeling unworthy. And then if we break our resolutions by forgetting about them – or setting ourselves up to meet impossible standards – we end up feeling even worse than before we made the resolution.
Most new year’s resolutions are also fueled by will power. Using will power has its downside, as it’s just as easy to talk ourselves out of something as it is to talk ourselves into into it. The mind is fickle that way. From my perspective, these approaches are backwards.
It’s not that good intentions aren’t important, and they are most certainly necessary for a fulfilling life. But on their own, good intentions are not enough. It’s more important to figure out why we want to change – that will anchor the positive changes we seek. We need to understand why we are operating in counter-productive ways in the first place. To get at the ‘why’, start by focusing on identifying the legitimate needs you are trying to meet through seemingly unrewarding feelings, beliefs or behaviors. As an example, you may feel angry because you are being mistreated. The challenge hear is to be able to use anger as a catalyst to help us get our needs met, which may include becoming more assertive and setting limits in relationships.
There’s a lot of personal power to be gained by figuring out our genuine needs, and the appropriate and healthy ways to meet those needs. For example, if you have been over-eating, the solution is not necessarily to just go on a diet. It’s important to first determine the role of food in your life, especially if you are using it to comfort yourselves due to stress, worry, sadness, or feeling powerless, inadequate or lonely. By focusing on dieting if you have unmet emotional needs or feel distressed, you are much more vulnerable to regaining the weight, as your underlying needs are not being met.
The path to effective solutions – and less stress – for 2014, is to find ways to overcome emotional challenges by focusing on what you need to add to your life, rather than subtract. Certainly, if you have some bad habits, or negative influences around you, these need to go. Once you’ve identified your needs, make them your source of motivation. Next create realistic plans that reflect your highest motivators and reinforce optimism about your future. Then put your plans to work daily to make life more rewarding, rather than concentrating on what you lack.
Where To Start
1. Create Your Vision – Visualize in detail what you want your life to look like in 2014 – your vision of optimal psychological well being. Get in touch with how you want to feel, think and relate to others. Decide what you want to believe, and pinpoint your physical health goals. Don’t censor yourself. Identify the key ingredients – the things you must have. For example, ending panic attacks. Then figure out what might be negotiable and expendable.
2. Focus on Results – Decide on a handful of goals – things you want to achieve personally and interpersonally – in 2014. Understand that your goals may change a bit or even a lot. It doesn’t mean you are not on track, but are more likely getting closer to sorting out what you truly need.
3. Make Plans – Start to work out how to reach your goals, and what ‘baby steps’ you can take daily to get there.
4. Cultivate a Healthy Mind Set – In my opinion, this is the foundation of successful living. A constructive perspective is as essential as oxygen to prevent and overcome anxiety, fear, mood swings, self doubt, distractions, procrastination, addictive habits and general confusion that can lead to paralyzing mental blocks.
Healthy mind set appears to be based on – and likely not limited to – the ability to grow and maintain these 7 basic elements: Self acceptance, Patience, Mental relaxation, Self trust, Living in the moment, Balance between work, play and rest, and Letting go of things we can’t control.
It also helps to maintain awareness that life is finite. When we remember that all we know for certain is that this moment is all we have, it’s easier to prioritize not misusing or wasting time. That way we can seize the moment to be fully present and engaged in the life we want, without intense stress, worry or sadness.
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