We’ve all experienced times where we are all fired up about an exciting new idea or resolution. We start out strong with high expectations, but when we realize it’s going to take more work than we anticipated or discover that it isn’t everything we hoped it would be, our motivation is quickly extinguished.
Maybe you had great plans for this new year. But now that we are a few weeks past the hype of New Year’s resolutions, has this happened to you? If so, don’t be discouraged. Remember, God’s love for you isn’t dependent on whether or not you are an all-star at New Year’s resolutions, or resolutions in general. He wants you to grow closer to him, and often we are closest to him when we are struggling. With that being said, you can start (or restart) a goal any time of year. So whether you are reevaluating your New Year’s Resolutions or are looking to start working on a new goal, keep in mind the following tips.
Make it meaningful
A helpful question to ask yourself is, “How is this resolution meaningful to me?” In other words, are you choosing a new habit that will help you become a better and more authentic version of yourself, or are you choosing something for the sake of choosing something? If your resolution has a deep and personal meaning, you are more likely to be invested in seeing it through.
For example, let’s say you want to focus on growing spiritually and make it your goal to go to adoration at 3 a.m. once a week, because it seems like a great way to demonstrate your commitment to your faith. While there isn’t anything wrong with making this your goal, if you selected it randomly or because it seemed “holy,” it might not be meaningful enough for you to make it stick. It’s more important to choose something that’s meaningful to you than to choose something because you feel like you should. If you want to start journaling, staying in better touch with friends, reading about the lives of the saints or challenging your inner critic, go for it! As long as it’s personal to you, you’ll have a much easier time reaching your goal. And if you are having trouble identifying something meaningful, try asking the Holy Spirit for guidance. He will direct you toward a change that will help you become a more authentic version of yourself.
Make it clear
Once you’ve identified what your new habit will be, it’s important to make it as clear as possible so that you set expectations for yourself. That way, you’ll know not only how to reach your goal but also when it is achieved. Set aside time to write out what it will look like to work on your goal. For example, if you want to start journaling, you might want to choose what notebook you’ll be writing in (this is your chance to choose a pretty one), the time of day (morning vs. evening), where (on your coach, in your room, at the kitchen table, etc.) and for how long (10 minutes, half an hour, as long as you feel like writing, etc.). Think of these as your step-by-step directions to building your new habit.
Make it positive/uplifting
It can be tempting to create a goal around a real or perceived deficit in your life (for example, wanting to lose weight) but it is much more motivating and uplifting to frame your goal in terms of something positive. For example, if you struggle with making self-critical statements, consider framing it as something empowering, such as, “I will treat myself with kindness and compassion.” When you use positive language, it’s easier to see your resolution as making an uplifting addition to your life instead of taking something away. It’s a simple switch but, it can make a huge difference.
Make it realistic
When it comes to making a resolution, make sure you aren’t biting off more than you can chew. If you’ve always dreamt of writing a best-selling novel, start with an achievable goal that will help you get one step closer to your long-term dream like signing up for a creative writing class or joining a writing club. Keep dreaming big dreams, but just make sure you have a plan for how to achieve them. Remember, God isn’t asking you for perfection or to take extreme measures to achieve a goal. He wants you to dream big dreams, just as many of the saints did, but he also wants you to focus on what really matters — growing closer to him.
Make yourself accountable
And finally, in order to help you stay motivated and on track with your goal, consider setting up ways to hold yourself accountable. This could look like asking a friend to join you in your goal or setting reminders on your phone. For example, if you want to read more, start a book club with some friends. When you have someone else to share your progress with, it can help you stay on track. And don’t forget about the saints. Find out which saint is the patron of whatever it is that you’re working on, and ask them to intercede on your behalf. You don’t have to struggle alone. Surround yourself with the support of family, friends and the saints, and you’ll increase your chances of successfully meeting your goal.
No matter what time of the year it is, it’s always a good idea to reevaluate the goals you have set or start a new goal. Use some of these strategies to help you make your resolution or new habit a success, maintain motivation and empower yourself.
Julia Marie Hogan is a counselor in Chicago and owner of Vita Optimum Counseling & Consulting, LLC. She also leads workshops and writes on topics related to self-care, relationships and mental health. Her book, It’s Ok to Start with You is all about the power of embracing your authentic self through self-care. She is passionate about empowering individuals to be their most authentic selves. You can find more of her writing online at juliamariehogan.com.