As the New Year approaches, it gives many pause for reflection over the last year’s events or in this case, the last decade. This practice can be quite valuable and an excellent opportunity to evaluate goals you want to set for yourself or to give yourself a clean slate and permission to start fresh.
But there is some amount of danger in this way of thinking, too. In some cases, there exists an implication that whatever you are doing now is not enough or that drastic change is the only way to experience the type of fulfillment you are really seeking for your life.
It is true that sometimes, radical change is needed to make the impact we desire. But more often, our goals do not have to be that extreme in order to be implemented and if we ignore this fact, we set ourselves up for disappointment.
When we create New Year Resolutions for ourselves, sometimes we create an unseen pressure to become something we are not or in a timeframe that is not realistic. Sometimes, the key to generating greater fulfillment and achieving what we want to accomplish begins instead with an acceptance and appreciation for what we are already doing really well. In fact, if we are constantly trying to think of ways to improve ourselves, it can make it really easy to lose sight of what is actually working for us.
Another pitfall of this way of thinking is the implication that seizing our personal growth has only limited windows of opportunity, as if it were structured like open enrollment for health care. The reality is, it is within your power to make different choices for yourself at any time. You do not have to wait until the calendar rolls over or the clock strikes midnight. In fact, if you do wait on some arbitrary marker, you risk stunting the natural momentum that can be gained from ideas that occur spontaneously.
Growth is organic, not formulaic. It often happens in unintentional moments while we are busy working away at something we love. Think about a time in your life when you learned an important lesson that helped you grow. Was it a result of a carefully laid plan? Or was it related to variables outside of your control? It is true that setting goals for yourself and being intentional about the direction of your life is important, but the key to growing within those expectations is to remain open and authentically in touch with where you really are and what opportunities you may not have even thought of yet that lie ahead.
This is not to suggest that we do not deliberately challenge ourselves, quite the opposite. The difference is in giving space and appreciation for what we have done well and then building naturally upon that. Instead of rigid declarations, for instance, approach your new goals like riding a wave or allow them to unfold like a blooming flower. It is true there are times when your goal planning calls for specific, definitively outlined goals, but there are also many times when you know you need to change the direction of your life, but you may not know what the end goal will look like exactly. You do not have to have it all mapped out and risk assessed or all the answers before you begin to move things forward in the direction you want to go. Just take one, small step, then go from there.
Likewise, missteps on the road to goal making are not failures. If you start a diet plan but can’t resist one piece of grandmother’s pie at a family gathering, you do not have to throw the whole plan out the window. If you would like to be the type of person that exercises at 5:00am before work everyday but you miss a day here and there, try adjusting your expectation to making it happen three out of five days a week and increase from there. When you surround your goals with expectations of incremental progress, moving steadily in a direction you want to go, and accepting and appreciating where you really are, you liberate yourself to make that move more fluidly and maybe, overall, with greater success and happiness.
Instead of New Year’s resolutions, this year I propose we consider New Year’s Integrations. Keep all the wonderful things about yourself that make you YOU, while folding in some new and exciting opportunities to challenge yourself to grow and change. Integrate these bit by bit and before you know it, you will be counting down the ball drop for 2021, having realized your 2020 goals and planning for even more new ideas for growth.