Your Dreams for the New Year Won't Happen Until You Learn This

Friends playing with sparklers at party
Friends playing with sparklers at party

'Tis the season when the blogosphere is filled with helpful reminders and tips for picking and sticking to our resolutions. We're encouraged to dream big and go after what we want. We find several virtual cheerleaders in our newsfeeds, rooting for us and inspiring us with motivating memes and famous quotations.

They make it sound so easy, don't they? And then, when January becomes February and no real change has taken place, we pretend no one ever said anything and it's as if we never promised ourselves that we were going to lose that weight, spend less time at work, or save for that special vacation.

In order to make and keep your resolution, there's an important skill that you need to learn: how to say "no."

You cannot create real, successful change in your life until you learn to say no to people or responsibilities that want to suck your time.

Saying "no" means getting used to disappointing people.

In order to create change in your life, you need to make room for it. This might mean clearing a spot in your schedule or making room in your budget. Often, change also involves having to say no to people who need your help or want some of your time.

It's not easy. That's why people tend to avoid the conflict and let their goals lapse in favor of keeping the peace. However, if you share the rationale for why you're saying no to something or someone, you'll often find support in unexpected places.

It's OK to say, "You know me, I usually don't mind helping out but this is the year that I promised myself I would ____ and I really need to give that my time and attention in order to make it happen."

You might also try asking outright for understanding: "I know you're used to seeing me more often and I am sorry that I haven't had as much time for you as I usually do. This year, I am finally going to try _____ and it's taking up a bit of my time. I hate disappointing you but I really hope you'll understand."

When you include people in your goals, you increase the likelihood that they'll join with you and you can benefit from their support. If they are unsupportive or give you a guilt trip, that says more about them than it does about you. It can be hard for people to accept change, and sometimes seeing someone else make changes or go after their dreams challenges the status quo for those around them.

You might not find the understanding or support that you deserve, but that isn't a reason to stop.

It's OK to set the boundary and be clear about what you are or aren't willing to do or commit to. Each time you set a boundary with someone else, you're holding yourself accountable. You're reminding yourself that your goals and your dreams matter. You're choosing you. Not everyone will get it, and that's OK.

Saying no will hurt at first, but not forever.

It's hard disappointing someone. It's not easy seeing someone else's disappointment, and your conscience might twinge when you're not volunteering for something that you know people need help with. It's normal and understandable to feel that way, but that isn't a reason to stop, either.

Hang tight. Sit through those tough feelings. Once you get through them and to the other side, you'll feel the reward and pride that comes with taking the time to do what you said you would. Keeping a promise you made to yourself just feels great, and that feeling of accomplishment can fuel you. It gives you more energy and you're more authentic with everyone around you. By taking care of yourself, you become better for everyone.

There's a reason you're told to put the oxygen mask on yourself first.

It's easy to think you're doing the right thing by giving yourself away and stretching yourself too thin. After all, you're being helpful, you're showing up, and you're taking care of people. However, when your own needs go unmet for a long period of time, the wear and tear on your spirit starts to show. You're less engaged, your relationships are challenged, and your mood suffers.

Saying no isn't about disappointing others. It's about taking care of you. It's about putting the oxygen mask on yourself so that you can be what everyone needs you to be.

It's not selfish to put your needs first. It's critical that you do.

Wishing you a year in which at least one of your resolutions comes true.

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