It’s a brand new year, that time when nearly everyone is giving at least a passing thought to how to create positive changes in the upcoming year. Many people, however, have soured on the concept of making New Year’s Resolutions. After all, some research shows that most of us don’t make it past January in carrying forward any permanent changes. They say that habits require at least 22 days of consistent practice, yet many of us concede defeat after just a few days. Other data reveal that 92% of us don’t meet our goals. With statistics like these, who cares to even attempt any positive change? Won’t we be saving ourselves a lot of trouble if we just keep the bar low and comfortable? Can’t we just avoid the embarrassment of failing yet again? Isn’t it easier to protect ourselves from the inevitable risk of actually succeeding at what we’ve desired as a goal?
Before we answer those questions affirmatively, let’s remember that positive change through self-improvement can have many hard-earned yet deeply satisfying and lasting benefits. If I strive to quit smoking or to lose weight, I’m not only saving money that can be redirected toward other needs and wants, but I’m also hopefully improving my health outcomes for decades to come. Also, it feels good to achieve a goal, even a small one, as the feat builds our confidence for the next challenge. Positive change helps us to feel better about ourselves, and although impressing other people should not be the primary motivator for reaching our goals, positive change does influence others to see us in a better light. And while we’re talking about others, let’s remember that self-improvement is not just for the self. Very often, positive change not only improves how we are perceived, but helps us to make more lasting contributions in others’ lives. For example, as God has allowed me to establish and sustain The Armstrong Center for Hope (now in our 8th year), the lives of many clients, their family members, clinicians, and staff experiencing healing, purpose, and better quality of life. God gets the glory, and we get to share in the fruits!
So in the spirit of balance between striving for our best and keeping it real, here are a few suggestions for how to set goals in 2018, but only if you want to miss the mark entirely:
- Come out of 2017 like gangbusters with every resolution under the sun. Swear upon your firstborn that you will lose 75 pounds and become vegan and eliminate $50K of credit card debt. In fact, you’ll probably be done by August.
- In order to show just how strong you are, don’t rely on any supports to achieve your goals. In fact, don’t even tell anyone what you’re striving to do. Others will admire you more if you go it alone.
- There’s no need to make any accommodations in your schedule, your budget, your relationships, or your diet to make room for your new goals. These kinds of great feats are usually accomplished by sheer willpower alone.
- Believe every negative thing anyone has ever said about you. Their voices in your head should be louder than your positive voice and God’s voice, combined.
- Keep your goals as vague and unspecific as possible, and give yourself as much time as you want to achieve them. It doesn’t really matter if you run that 5K in 2018, or 2020, or 2025. They usually give special consideration to folks with joint replacements, anyway.
- If you should reach February and find that you are slipping further and further behind on your goals, go ahead and throw in the towel. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single, thousand-mile bound.
Please note that this tongue-in-cheek list is meant to point out some of our common stumbles, and to humorously point us back in the right direction. Find an accountability partner, take baby steps, and stop to catch your breath if you must, but don’t stop believing!!
À Votre Santé (“To Your Health”),
Tonya D. Armstrong, Ph.D., M.T.S.
P.S. For those of you local to the Research Triangle, I’ll see you Tuesday night from 6:30-9 pm at Beyu Caffe, 341 W. Main St. in Durham (http://beyucaffe.com/events/be-connected-book-signings-with-dr-tonya-armstrong-regina-gale/).