MY WISH FOR YOU
As a therapist I see a lot of people looking to make changes: with themselves, in relationships, parenting, work, and the list goes on. Change can be difficult. We are hard on ourselves for not addressing things earlier, more consistently or for not having enough motivation. We blame ourselves and shame ourselves and the dialogue in our heads can get pretty nasty. We would never prompt a friend to attain their goals in the same way we talk to ourselves. Negative self talk actually reduces our capacity for self improvement. Here are four ways to implement success which don't include a huge helping of negative self talk.
The first step is to approach your plan in a realistic way that reinforces your sense of capability. This can often be accomplished by starting out with baby steps instead of high demand plans and schedules that set us up to fail. This helps those who put huge expectations on themselves to go from “I will go to the gym two hours every day,” to “I am going to the gym this week maybe even twice”. Once some mastery is accomplished with the first step, more steps can be taken to increase commitment enabling you to build a plan that works.
Another important step is to be understanding of yourself when you haven't met your goal or feel you have taken a step backwards. Understanding isn't the same as personally accepting the set back but it enables you to overcome them and move forward. If you just offered to host a New Year's brunch for the entire family after muttering never again at Christmas, let it go. Punishing yourself with chastisement is not helpful. Instead recognize that change takes time, forgive yourself and move forward.
When your targets appear to be slipping away or you are taking seemingly opposite steps to the direction you want to go, evaluate the situation. Ask yourself a couple of questions like: what was your state of mind at the time?, how can you approach similar scenarios differently next time?, and what have you learned that will equip you to succeed in the future? Henry David Thoreau once said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals”.
Embrace acceptance when the direction changes. There is so much in our lives we can't control so sometimes goals need to be held loosely, not fearing things as lost when they don't work the way we planned. For example, intentions to take an online course that is interrupted by a clear need to focus on new challenges at work can happen. In such a scenario ask yourself how this goal be accomplished? What new timeline can be established? How can this be a positive? Adaptation enables us to reframe circumstances and reshape our goals to maintain a constructive perspective.
Approaching goals gently with incremental success in mind allows for bumps in the road, makes room for knowledge to be gained and staves off shame and blame which are common, but not healthy or helpful motivators.