Making change starts with accepting imperfection and redirecting your attention.
As the New Year approaches I invite you to set aside those rigid New Year’s resolutions and instead see this year as a practice. There is an implied rule within resolutions that we’ll actually stick to them and when we don’t, we set ourselves up for the same old habitual mind traps that have kept us stuck in the past.
“I’ve failed once again,” arises, leading to a sense of sluggishness and the next thought, “What’s the point?” This mindset leads to the inevitable abandonment of our resolute intention, with feelings of shame as a result.
But there’s another way!
When we set goals for ourselves and create plans to reach those goals we cultivate hope, which is our greatest antidepressant. Goal setting isn’t nearly as rigid as “making a resolution” – it allows for a few twists and turns along the way. The key is to not lose sight of our goal, accepting that we may end up taking a slightly unplanned route in getting there.
3 Steps to a Resilient New Year
1) Expect to stray: This is just a fact of life that we sometimes refuse to own up to. We’ll almost always wander with the goals we make. Maybe we commit to exercise and then we get sick, or we set a path for meditation and our minds get caught up in daily busyness while days go by without practice. Behavior wandering is going to happen… which brings us to Step #2.
2) Don’t judge: Your behavior wandering is not a good or bad thing – it’s just the natural course of someone trying to make a change. Simply notice that you’ve wandered and where you’ve wandered to so you can commit it into your memory and notice it sooner the next time. If judgments like “I can never do this” or “what was I thinking” do arise, simply note them just like you noted your wandering behavior and move to Step #3.
3) Refocus: Gently bring yourself back to the plan you had created and/or see if it needs revisions.
It’s important to keep an open heart toward yourself as you practice. It’s not going to be perfect so the question to ask yourself is this: “Can I accept the reality of my imperfections?“.
If you’re perfect, you’re not human UNLESS you reframe it by saying you’re perfect with your imperfections!
There’s no need to wish yourself good luck because making change is not about luck – it’s about having a good strategy of being kind and compassionate with yourself as you wander off. This act of self-compassion gives you the space and acceptance to gently guide yourself back to the object of focus.
So, instead of “good luck” I’ll wish you a Good Heart throughout this year!
Adapted from Mindfulness and Psychotherapy