For many of us a new year ushers in self-reflection and promises for change. This is good – identifying things about ourselves or situations that we want to enhance. Often though, resolutions don’t work; they are either made under the duress of champagne, a food coma, or are too bold to be reachable. We feel them in our head, not in our heart. And if we don’t fulfill them, we can become disappointed.

Here are some ideas for avoiding the potentially demoralizing impact of not living up to your own proclamations:

Look Back: You are Already Better than You Think

Before you dive into listing things you don’t like about your life, recognize what you have done that worked. We often get caught up in what is negative without giving due course to the new responsibilities that we mastered, the friends we have helped, the boss who said thanks, or the choice to take the stairs.

Lighten up. In the course of your busy life you have probably done more to grow than you think.

Keep it Real

Create a small list of things you want to work on. This is not an opportunity to nit-pick yourself. No lists of could haveshould havewould haveif only. This serves no purpose other than to make you feel bad. Instead, be discerning and deliberate. Keep it simple.

Here’s a tool to help:

With no more than three categories, e.g., self, life, career, consider no more than two things you would like to do differently. Then ask yourself:

  • What good will come from changing this?
  • Will this change be good for me and those I care about?
  • Can I look myself in the eye each day if I do nothing about it?

For each question you can rate each of your changes from 1-3, where 3 is the most important. Then total the score for each. Choose one or two of the possible six things you identified that scores the highest to focus on.

CHANGE INVENTORY:

Then, ask yourself honestly- do I really care if I do this? If the answer is no, then put the inventory away and look at it again another time. A new year is a traditional time to reflect- but it might not be the right time for you. If the answer is yes, continue on.

Take Small Bites

Change is not a feast. You need to conceive what it is you want and what it will look like when you get there – it is a vision, a driver, not a plan. Change is not a product, it’s a process, and it is best served on small plates taken in small bites. So determine:

  • What deliberate outcome are you looking for?
  • What specific actions will you take, step by step and when?
  • How you will identify if you are getting there?

Small bites are easier to swallow and digest. And even here, some may go down easier than others, and that’s ok too. It is wise to try something new in a small amount – that way you don’t choke on it if it’s not for you.

Celebrate Your Progress

Growth occurs in steady intervals and in spurts. Progress can take time. And then sometimes it compounds! It might not seem like you are getting far and then something happens to show you that there’s a difference. Be patient, encourage yourself and when you have completed a small bite – savor it, recognize yourself for it. There is distance traveled and that’s what matters most. Then use that small win to step toward the next one.

If it Doesn’t Taste Good Ditch the Plate

Change for change’s sake doesn’t work. It needs to be a deliberate effort to take yourself to your next. If you are doing it because someone else wants you to, it may not work out. You also might decide as you take small bites that the plate you are creating is not for you. You couldn’t have known this unless you tasted it. This is also progress.

What matters most in the ever evolving process of becoming a new you is that you will be the same and different, whether you consciously decide to work on it or not. So, enjoy the journey.

Cheers!

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Written by Helen Rothberg