How to Implement Change in 2017: Tips from a Licensed Therapist

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It is almost 2017 and that means social media and the internet are full of those New Year’s resolution posts, videos, and articles on how you should best prepare for the new year. Some of them are good, but a lot are lacking and offer little more than a short-term boost with no long-term benefits.

As a mental health therapist, a big part of my job is helping clients identify their problem areas and assisting them in making long-term changes for a better future. Below are some of tried and true tips from my clinical experience in helping others on how to best prepare your 2017 resolutions.

Step 1: Reflect

A common mistake that many people make with their New Year’s resolutions is by starting with the present. This is a big oversight as you cannot ignore the past in charting your course for the future. Why is looking back to last year important? It’s imperative to reflect on what you were doing this time last year and think about how you have grown.

Start by looking at January in your calendar from last year and take a moment to reflect on the events, goals and pursuits you may have had from the previous year. Did you write those goals down? If so, then the process will be a lot easier. If not, now is a really good time to start.

How did you do? Did you accomplish a lot over the past year? Or did you not work on any of the goals you wanted to complete? What were some of the obstacles that prevented you from making progress? This reflection exercise is very useful because it helps you assess where you are, why you are there, and how you want to move forward for the next year.

Step 2: Brainstorm Potential Goals

Now that you have spent some time reflecting on how well or not last year went, you can think about, “What would I like to do next?” One of the best ways to do this is to think about what your future self ten years from now would want you to do.

Take a few minutes to jot down all your ideas no matter how silly or far-fetched the goals seem. This is the brainstorming process and exploring all options for goals can be potentially useful.

Step 3: Pick Your Favorite Goals

Now that you have written all your goals it is time to narrow them down a bit – after all if you were truly open-minded in Step 2 of the process then there would be no way to accomplish everything you wrote down. Take some time to pick a few goals that you think will add the most value to your life. Remember it is better to be consistent with a few goals and accomplish them, then pick a lot of goals and end up not accomplishing anything. I usually tell my clients to pick no more than three goals to help stay focused.

One word of advice: Try to stay well-rounded when picking your goals. Pick a goal for your professional life, something for your personal or family life, and then one for your health and fitness life. The more variety you have in your goals the more likely you are to become a well-rounded person which is important for overall personal development.

Step 4: Keep Your Goals Manageable

Once you have your goals it is time to create the proper blueprints to accomplish them. That means you need to break each goal into a short-term and long-term objective. This is essential to staying on track during the year and not falling off the New Year’s resolution band-wagon – which most people do.

Your initial goal is always your long-term goal; however, you need something on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis so that you can keep yourself on track and measure your progress. Famed entrepreneur Bill Hewlett (of Hewlett-Packard fame) once said that, “You cannot manage what you cannot measure … and what gets measured gets done.” This is the mentality you must keep in order to actually ACCOMPLISH your goals.

For example if one of your long-term goals is lose 25 pounds this year, you would break this down by trying to lose half of a pound per week or two pounds per month. Your long-term goal will keep you focused on what you want while your short-term goal will focus you on how to get there.

Step 5: Make Goals Handy

Once you have written down your goals it is important to keep them in an easy-to-access place. A bedside journal or phone are some of my favorite places, but it all depends on your lifestyle. Remember that to stay on track it will be important to check in with your goals at least once a week to see how you are doing.

Step 6: Keep Goals Private

At this point you are probably very excited that you have your goals set and are ready to tell all your friends. Let me warn you – do NOT share your them. Keeping your goals private may sound very counter-intuitive, but research shows that telling others about your goals will make you less likely to accomplish them. Blabbing your resolutions on social media is almost like a death sentence for your goals. If you must share them then make sure you only do it with those closest to you, and also make sure that they are people that will help you stay on track.

So there you have it - follow these six steps and hopefully next year at this time you will be looking back with a smile on accomplishing what you set out to do in 2017 . Remember consistency is key. If you slip on your goals for a couple days or weeks try to not waste emotional energy on feeling guilty and just keep moving on towards your goals.

Best wishes to you and your family for this upcoming new year!

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