It’s the new year and many of us have set New Year Resolutions; “I’m going to lose weight,” “I’m going to stop smoking,” “I’m going to get out of debt,” etc, etc, etc.

I have set those New Year’s Resolutions many, many times, and I would guess, like many of you, ended up not following through.  Then I would spend some time beating myself up about not reaching my goal/s. I realized that while I had lofty goals, I also had to work through some emotional and spiritual stuff that some of these goals brought up.  I was setting myself up for failure by committing to things that were wildly outside of my comfort zone and taking away what I realize now were self-soothing and self-regulating behaviors.  Certainly, they weren’t the healthiest habits, but they did the trick at the time.

I’ve learned a few things as I’ve set different goals and either achieved or didn’t achieve them.

Timing is important.  When you’re ready, when you’ve reached the point where you can’t tolerate whatever it is that’s going on, you’ll know deep down that you’re ready.  I think we have been so used to New Year’s Resolutions that we somehow think making all these changes in the new year is the only time we can.  I would guess that many of us are looking at a very busy January, so adding in more commitments or removing something that has been a support could be setting yourself for struggle or failure.  Maybe the first change you can make is ditch the idea of New Year’s Resolutions and give yourself the freedom to make changes when you’re ready.

Start small and be realistic.  “I want to get out of debt”.  This was one of mine that I set a few years ago.  I decided that I was going to send every extra penny to my credit card to finally get out of debt.  Sounds reasonable, right?  So, the first few months were fine.  Then I started to notice how much I was ruminating on the debt I still had to pay off.  Even though I knew it was going to take a while to be debt free, I started beating myself up about not paying it off faster, sending more money each month etc.  Then I noticed that If something came up (dinner with friends, car needed an oil change) I didn’t have the cash on hand to pay for it.  I said no to dinner, I put off the oil change till the following month.  Fine.  But that made the payment to my card less, which got me beating myself up a little more.  I over-committed to myself the amount I could reasonably send each month.  I wasn’t allowing for any of the spontaneous life things to happen.

I had a long talk with myself and revisited my budget.  I got honest.  Yes, I wanted to be out of debt, but I was not realistic about what I could send each month and still live well.  I had to be honest that it was going to take several years to finally pay it off.  After a few payments and tweaks I got to a place where I was sending in a decent amount of money to the card, saving a little and keeping some spending money for myself.

Be honest with yourself about the time, resources, and energy you have when it comes to making changes and setting goals.  Want to start meditating more?  Instead of committing to meditating every day for 30 minutes – start by committing to meditating 5 minutes 2 days a week.  When you get that down – add a day.  Add 5 minutes the next month to each session.  Starting slow and building good habits will increase your chances of success.

Give yourself compassion and grace.  We have all been there – “I missed my workout”; “I had a second helping of pie”; “I bought that new jacket”; “I’ll meditate tomorrow”.  We are all human and we are all imperfect.  If beating ourselves up and being overly critical produced results, we would all be thin, rich and spiritually aware!  Making any kind of change, even ones that are ultimately good for us, will push us out of our comfort zones.  We may snap back occasionally and reach for the cookie, watch TV and tune out etc.

Give yourself compassion when this happens because it will.  This is the time to check in with yourself.  Is something else going on that had you reach for that cookie?  Are you starting to see results from the gym, and you’re not used to looking at yourself and feeling good?  Is the meditation beginning to bring up emotions that are difficult?  Does being out of debt trigger fears that you’re actual not good with money and you’ll just end up in debt all over again?  These, and more instances, are all valid experiences with people who are changing.  In choosing to make changes to our lives, we are opening ourselves up to learning what we had to do to survive.  Now we’re interested in thriving and have to work on letting some of these old behaviors and patterns go.  Talk to trusted friends, find a therapist, start journaling.  It’s worth it.

Mike Rackov, owner of Energetic Intentions, is a Reiki and Shamanic energy practitioner.  $65.00 for a 45-minute consult and Reiki session.