A new year brings with it the anticipation for better things; that you will do better, that you’ll succeed further and generally that this year you’re life will meet all of your expectations and be the best year of your life…Talk about setting yourself up for a fall and a hard, flat on your face on concrete, scrape your knees and sprain both ankles type of fall.
We love to create unrealistic expectations for ourselves and the world around us, we fill our hearts with hope to get through the day to day. Yet at the end of each year instead of tackling each day individually we decide that we can handle the hope and wishes of 365 days in one swoop. And we wonder why we fall into a self pitying routine of ‘failure’.
I’ve been thinking about this and the anxiety that follows me around when I set myself goals both daily and 365 goals and resolutions. How I struggle to keep momentum and stay positive even when I’m feeling like I’ll never find resolve…but there is a positive in setting goals and resolutions – it encourages us to strive for something and find value from ourselves and the world around us. What strikes me to be the problem with setting resolutions is that expectation to follow them all year round, year after year so I’ve decided instead of creating resolutions for the year ahead perhaps I/we need to reflect on why our resolutions didn’t neccessarily resolve the previous year.
We should take time to consider if we are giving ourselves realistic and achievable goals so that we can set healthier expectations for ourselves over the year ahead.
Through this self reflection I have come to realise that it’s the 365 days I have the problem with – my moods are so changeable that it’s almost impossible to plan too far ahead, let alone set myself huge resolutions. I have decided therefore, to set myself 6 goals for the first 6 months ahead, and with each goal that I complete I’ll receive a reward – like I’m a young child gathering gold stars at school. I’m sure you’re already thinking well, that sounds pretty childish. But why should you not reward yourself for completeing things that challenge you or you’ve worked towards? Just because we’re over the age of 12 doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to support ourselves and acknowledge our achievements – big or small.
A long and often dark month for those that suffer with mental health dfficulties aswell as for those that don’t. It’s a universally recognised crappy month; finances need to last a little longer, days are colder and darker and we all retreat into the comforts of our homes and pyjamas as if our lives outside of our homes were something out of The Walking Dead.
People force themselves into diets and exercise and set weight goals that even the eager fitness lover would struggle to achieve. So let’s not do that. Let’s set a few small goals.
For me I plan to walk either to or from work (2.5 miles each way) twice a week – if I achieve this then I will reward myself with a £25 treat at the end of the month (£5 per week – which is what I would have spent on bus fare). If I achieve this goal I will mark my calendar with a gold star (hell yes! sticker rewards are used in schools for a reason!) this will allow me to see the progress I make each week.
My second goal of the month is to read more – I used to read a book a week and I miss that feeling of being engrossed in a book, the feel of the pages, the smell of the paper and the escape from reality. Now I could set myself the goal of reading a book a week straight off the bat but it’s likely by the end of week one I would have failed and then piled guilt after pile of guilt on top of myself until I was suffocating in it.
I bought myself Tom Hanks’ new book of short stories and set myself the goal of reading at least one short story per week and if I achieve this goal at the end of the month I will buy myself a new book of short stories.
The shortest month of the year, this month is often such a whirlwind and full of the disappointments of missing the goals and failing the resolutions we set for ourselves that we often just chuck it all in by this point. But it needn’t be quite so soul destroying.
Building on the momentum of my January goals I have set myself the same goals with a slight extension – instead of walking to or from work twice a week I am increasing it to 3 times a week and reading two short stories a week. Swinging on the momentum we’ve built from the month before will support us in achieving the goals for this month.
Now let me make clear if you don’t meet your small goals each week this doesn’t mean you have failed, are a waste of space or any of the negative adjectives you throw at yourself. Instead use the following week to carry on from where you’ve left off. If we were praising children – babies learning to walk for example, we don’t tell them off for falling over after a few steps. We encourage them with praise and reinforce this with clapping or cheering, encouraging them to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no reason we shouldn’t do this for ourselves as adults.
When you’re feeling like giving up or repremanding yourself because you’ve only successfully achieved part of your goal for that month don’t pile the negativity on yourself – how do you expect yourself to achieve anything if you’ve got all of that to wade through? Of course you’re still likely to throw curses and negative words at yourself – and that’s okay but when you feel able, empty your mind of those things and remember why you set yourself these targets in the first place. Remind yourself of everything you’ve achieved so far and keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Daffodils aplenty and brighter mornings lead way to spring cleans and the start of warmer days. It’s a great time to add a new extension to your previous month goals or add a new one to them. My new goal for this month is to get out into nature a little more. I love the woods in spring, seeing the plants grow and the trees begin to bloom with green so this month my aim is to explore Devon, the county I live in. To visit two places I have never been to before… where would you go?
April is often the start of a depressive mood cycle for me and I fall into the pitfalls of darkness. So this month my goal will be to be kinder to myself – a tough one for many of us. So what will kindness look to me this month? I’m not sure but I do know that it will mean I’ll be putting my needs first whether it be to sleep in or head to the beach – whatever it may mean I endeavour to do something each week that is just for me.
By the 5th month our eagerness to complete our goals will be waining… we may have even been unable to complete some of those we’ve set for ourselves. This month I’ll go back to the beginning ensuring I try to continue to walk to or from work three times a week and instead of relying on short stories I will buy myself a book and start to read it. Now I’m not going to set myself up to read it all in one month but instead to read 3 chapters a week until I finish it. Going back to original goals will allow us to reflect on why we may have found them difficult to achieve and give us the time to put new methods in place to support us in achieving them.
Summer is upon us, our social schedule may have increased and we’ll likely be feeling more proactive with the lighter mornings and lighter evenings… our goals will likely seem less important as we make way for other things. This month my goal will not be to focus on maintaining previous goals but to reflect on the 6 months of goals I’ve set; what I’ve found difficult, what I’ve enjoyed, loved and what goals have felt good. I’ll take those feelings and reflections to begin planning the next 6 months of the year.
As I move through these goals I will try to maintain reflection and kindness. If I don’t achieve every goal I’ll endeavour to set time aside to be unproductive and not put pressure on myself to complete every goal every week. Instead I’ll try to be kind to myself and focus on my achievements. It ain’t gonna be easy. And that’s okay. Just be sure to do the same – lowering your expectations is not saying you can’t do something or can’t achieve the goals and resolutions you’ve set for yourself. Lowering your expectations gives you breathing room to move forward and keep trying and not give up on yourself.
That’s the kindness you deserve.