By: Ryan Sargent
Most resolutions don’t make it past January 31st. Is that why gyms charge their “maintenance fees” in February? Maybe Valentine’s Day is strategically positioned so we can cope with chocolate?
On many occasions I hear people talking about their resolutions, which is usually promptly followed by a look of disappointment for not following through a promise they made to themselves at the turn of the new year. They lost motivation, can’t seem to get their schedule around the change they started to make, or otherwise share words of defeat for not feeling capable or able to step up to the challenge. There must be a more effective way to make healthy change, right?
Some of the drastic changes some of us expect: get a new career, lose 40 pounds in 12 months, go from never going to the gym to going for two hours a day. On New Year’s Eve, these sound admirable and almost doable – we get caught up in the moment and make promises. Once we get out of the starting blocks, however, we quickly feel defeated. If you dig a little deeper and explore the impact this dynamic has on our mental health, it might have you reconsidering how you approach goal setting.
Setting these kinds of goals, expecting ourselves to achieve the impossible, and then beating ourselves up when we fail closely remind me of a common thinking error called, “All-or-Nothing Thinking”. This nasty little trait can fuel a few things we get plagued with: chronic stress, anxiety, depression, panic, etc. Contrary to common practice, beating ourselves up does not lend towards more productivity, but the exact opposite. The way out of this thinking error, is to practice seeing things in shades of gray and not only black or only white. Progress, not perfection.
Just like we learned to walk, ride a bike, or run a marathon – we learn and change gradually, and usually with a lot of failure mixed in with the trying. Next time (or now) you want to set a goal, think about these things:
I do need to add the disclaimer that if a doctor tells you to start/stop doing something due to a health risk, it might be best to grin and bear it, especially if your life is on the line.
If you’ve tried and tried without success, or otherwise run into roadblocks along the way, counseling can be a great way to gain our bearings and to help get over obstacles. Reaching out to someone can be a built-in step towards finally achieving your goals.
Ryan Sargent is a Licensed Professional Counselor for MVRC. If you would like to contact him, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (614)230-0401.