A different approach to a new year

New Year’s resolutions are a tricky thing. Lots of people seem to take the idea with a grain of salt, and may even chuckle about January’s motivation — which leads to February’s decline and March’s inevitable disenchantment. But a lot of people are making resolutions they are serious about.

To me, the real reason resolutions are important is because they are an indicator of a desire for change of some kind. So, first and foremost, the setting of a resolution offers insight: You want something to be different. While inevitably we all understand a new year does not really mean a new you, and we wake up Jan. 1 just the same as we were Dec. 31, we have been culturally conditioned to view the start of a new year as an opportunity for a new life. Herein lies the reason why most resolution-setters are likely to fail. Change is difficult.

The notion of somehow having the ability to wipe the slate clean as one year ends and another begins is a powerful one — and it’s why we are so compelled to make resolutions, even when personal history has taught us we probably won’t maintain or maybe even remember them as the year progresses. Again, this is information about our desire for change. But the truth is, to really change, we need to do much more than simply identify a resolution at the beginning of a new year. 

Let me be clear that I am in no way suggesting you shouldn’t make a resolution and I’m certainly not saying you don’t have the ability to change. Quite the contrary — I know for a fact we all possess the profound ability to continually grow, evolve and change. It’s just the process requires hard work, discipline, shifts in thinking, a clear plan, support and encouragement from others and a steadfast desire to truly see results.

So, you’ve got your resolution in mind? Maybe you’ve committed it to pen and paper. Great. You’ve set an intention. This is your first step. As an aside, it is ideal that your resolution or intention be something you would love to do, feel, be, or become. If you’re focusing on what you do not want, instead of what you do, you won’t have as much success. For example, if you set the intention to read more books in 2019 because you don’t want to feel stupid around your new, smart group of friends, you’re less likely to be able to truly commit yourself to this change because it’s about what you don’t want (to feel stupid). On the other hand, if you set the intention of reading more books in 2019 because you truly love to read and your busy life has gotten in the way, you are substantially more likely to find success.    

Once you’re clear on your resolution being the right one for you, you need to take it and get really specific. You want to read more books? How many books? Which type of books? By which authors? If you already know the exact books, write them down. It is important to develop a clear picture of what you want and visualize it every day. You should be pursuing your resolution or intention each day in one way or another, focusing on trying to shift just 1 percent in the direction of who you want to become, or how you want to exist in the world. Small change is sustainable change.

This last piece is a big one: the people you surround yourself with. If you have a spouse, it’s probably a good idea to check in with him/her about his/her own personal goals for the year. Are your aspirations compatible? Can you support, encourage, and hold one another accountable? Human beings are simply too complex to be able to go it alone. As it relates to truly changing or shifting, having support is crucial. For some, this will be a spouse, but for others it may be a friend or friends. It is important to identify whether there are people in your world who will be a hindrance to your growth and put appropriate boundaries in place. Boundary setting may require the actual limiting of time spent with certain people. While this can be difficult, the truth is, child or adult, we are all susceptible to peer pressure. Other people’s negativity about what we are doing can and will affect how we feel about it — and ourselves. Don’t let this in.

Creating change within yourself and your immediate world is an entirely doable thing. You have the tools you need and you are worthy of the results you will get over time. Focus on each day. Focus on small, realistic shifts. Focus on how much you deserve to live the life you want to be living.

Happy New Year. 

Kristina Furia is a psychotherapist committed to working with LGBT individuals and couples and owner of Emerge Wellness, an LGBT health and wellness center in Center City (www.emergewellnessphilly.com).