I know, it's January 3rd, so all of the rule-followers are going to tell me that I'm too late to talk about resolutions for the New Year. The thing is, I'm a counselor, so I talk about resolutions for the whole year, but usually "in the field" we use a much less exciting phrase - goal setting.
That said, goal setting is one of my absolute favorite things about my work. The whole process makes me excited - figuring out where you want to be, the road blocks that have kept you from getting there, the small victories on the way, and the accountability pieces that set you up for success.
Favorite. I'm a huge goal nerd, and you can ask anyone that has ever worked with me, and they will surely agree.
Photo by Nicole Harrington on Unsplash
What I've noticed over the past few weeks, when I'm talking about goals with clients, friends, and family, is that most people don't hesitate to set goals. But they generally aren't setting the right ones.
In particular, there is one goal that I haven't heard from anyone. Not one person.
And honestly, it's the thing that I talk about with almost every single one of my clients, and the root of a whole lot of the issues that I see in my counseling office.
The conversation always goes like this:
Me: I'm amazed by all of the things that you are holding together every day. That must be so incredibly difficult for you. I can't even imagine how exhausted you must feel. Let me ask you this:
What are you doing to take care of yourself? What energizes you and fills your cup? What is your self-care routine?
Answer A: (blank stare).
Answer B: I don't really have the time/money to do much for myself right now.
Answer C: I don't really have anything that energizes me.
Answer D: I do (fill in the blank with: exercise, Netflix, mani/pedis, etc) but to be honest, it doesn't do much to make me feel better.
And that, my friends, is where we can begin making real resolutions and setting goals that will make a difference in every single aspect of your life.
You see, most resolutions are about the things that you think will make you feel better. Exercise, spending, career changes - those things can definitely make a difference.
But the truth is that to get those lifestyle changes to really stick, you have to be doing things that help you to enjoy your life at the same time. Because usually, the reason you haven't focused on those things in the past, or haven't been successful with them, is because they are not your favorite things to do.
Resolutions fail when we are taking them on as additional responsibilities to the stresses that we already have, and not propping them up with proper self-care and a good relationship with ourselves.
But here's the other piece: we struggle with this as adults because we are often so focused on our responsibilities that we can't even remember what makes us feel good about ourselves anymore. That's why I get so many blank stares when I ask people about self-care!
So here is my challenge to you - build your self-care routine so that you can have the energy to better focus on the rest of your goals.
Start by asking yourself this question: If money and time were not an object, all of my chores were done, and I had watched every single show on Netflix, what would I want to do? What new things would I try?
Still drawing a blank? What did you enjoy doing as a kid, or before you had kids/family/adult things to think about, that you feel like you don't have time for any longer?
Finally, if you still struggle with where to start, just start saying by saying yes. Try some new things. Make an effort to make friends that are into different things than you are.
If you give yourself permission to do things that help you to love your life, then you stop overwhelming yourself with responsibilities. While responsibilities are necessary, in order to maintain good mental and emotional health, it's important to maintain a balance.
I know what you're thinking - now in addition to all of the things that I already said I was going to do, I have to prioritize self-care?
Not really. I'm saying that if you prioritize self-care, it will help you to be successful at the other goals that you set for the year.
Just think of it as the extra boost of energy that you need to get things done.
Brooke Williams, MA, LPC, is a counselor licensed to practice in South Carolina. She specializes in making relationships thrive – whether working on marriages, parenting, friendships, or conflict in the workplace. You can read more about her here.