It is that time of year again when we start to reflect on the year behind us and focus on the changes we want to make in the future. While that can be a healing and rejuvenating process, it can also bring up feelings of failure or a sense that you are stuck in a rut. Maybe you have made the same new year’s resolution to lose weight, find a healthy relationship, choose a more satisfying job, or focus on your health - over and over again. In fact, you might even be reluctant to set goals and resolutions this year because you have been so “unsuccessful” in the past.
While you might feel like you are stuck in a loop of chronic failure, there are things you can do to reframe your expectations and approach the changes you want to make differently in the new year. In this post, we’ll discuss approaching goals in new ways, getting uncomfortable as you experience change, recognizing what you can't control, taking smart risks, and learning from failure as you define what you want in the new year and beyond.
Approaching goals in new ways
So often we choose a goal that is black and white or objectively measurable. While that can be important in some contexts, it’s likely not the most important thing to focus on as you set objectives in your life. Let’s take a dating example. Perhaps you feel that you can’t get into the groove of a long-term relationship. From self-sabotage to reacting based on your attachment system, you find yourself chronically dating but never settling into something deeper and more meaningful. Maybe you are tempted to set your new year’s resolution as “dating just one partner for 4 months or more”. While that might get you on track, it is probably not the reality you are looking for. Perhaps something like “dating until I feel comfortable enough to introduce a partner to my family” is really what you are looking for. Focus on the feeling you are looking for in your goals more than an arbitrary figure. The same goes for losing weight or a promotion. Don’t fall into the trap of focusing on a number on the scale or salary figure and instead ask yourself how you really want to feel about yourself in this new future state.
It is easy to retreat back into old patterns when you feel the discomfort of change. However, those feelings often indicate growth and progress. For instance, if you choose a new relationship and you start to feel uncomfortable about how close you are getting or the closeness you are feeling, your natural reaction may be to retreat into your comfort zone and away from that partner. Or, you may be the type of person who wants to go all-in too quickly. Making peace with the edges of your comfort zone, taking smart risks, and embracing the vulnerabilities that exist as you try new things, aligned with your vision for the new year, means you are on the right track. That might mean approaching communication in a more open way than you typically have or setting better boundaries around sex and intimacy in your new relationship. It might also mean forcing yourself to take it slow while you work to embrace those uncomfortable feelings that are part of growth.
Learning from failures
If you are reading this post, then likely you could relate to the feelings of “failure” or a lack of motivation to continue pursuing the same goals each year. During this time of new year reflection, learning from failures - which inherently makes them not failures if you are growing from these experiences - can be key to your success, as well as recognizing and making peace with what you can't control. For instance, maybe you know that your past relationships failed because you moved through milestones too fast, or your past health goals were too strict, causing you to have an all-or-nothing mindset and a regiment you couldn’t maintain. As you reflect on the ‘why’ of past failures, look for the lessons, learnings, and how those experiences influence the way you approach similar goals in the new year.
Similarly, make peace with what you can’t control in any given situation, like the behaviors and mindsets of others, or tragic situations that might have unexpectedly thrown you off course. If you look back with too much self-blame, you might be missing the fact that many dynamics are simply out of your control, including the attachment style of someone you are dating or whether they are truly ready for a relationship. As you look back, own your part of any shortcomings but recognize the dynamics that are simply not yours to fix.
At Center for Shared Insight in Denver, Colorado, we work with clients on identifying reasonable goals and a healthy vision for the future of their relationships and other important aspects of life. Working with a therapist can help you feel like you are not alone in your journey toward any vision you have for your life. We start our therapy partnerships with a free consultation where you can share more about your goals and challenges and we can explain the ways we help. Contact us to schedule that conversation.