Step. It. Up.
This rhetoric fills our mind space as the New Year approaches and we start to plan the next 365 days of our lives. Our mind goes down many winding paths, thinking about how to self-improve, where to improve, and what to improve on.
For each person, our desired improvements look different. We may want to get back into the gym and lose weight or focus on eating differently by trying out a new diet, pushing to get all A’s in school, or getting a long-sought-after promotion at work.
The themes of our New Year resolutions vary, but one thing remains consistent – we become focused on pushing ourselves towards a target or objective.
The Downside of Goal Setting
In our relentless pursuit of specific targets, we often lose sight of the bigger picture at the start of a new year.
We become hyper-focused, dedicating our energy and time to the target. But often, just as quickly as the motivation swells, it fizzles out as the luster of the new year fades, and we settle into the year’s grind. By springtime, our commitment has spun out, and we have either:
- Forgotten our goal we set in the first place, or
- Have been unable to meet it.
We start to beat ourselves up for not being able to stay consistent. All the while, we are inundated by social media culture, where everyone else is seemingly surpassing us and meeting all of their goals with ease. Our feeds are overrun with accomplishments and life milestones.
The Limitations Social Media Comparison
With social media influence, we see people graduating with accolades, peaceful sleeping babies being born, happy couples tying the knot, new adventurous careers launching, luxurious houses being bought, etc.
But what we don’t see are
- The long nights filled with stress cramming for an exam with the looming fear of failing the class,
- The frustration of navigating toxic family relationships while trying to plan your perfect wedding,
- The anxiety of uncertainty of stepping into a new job or role at work, or
- The financial burden and stress of packing your life into a new space.
Because we don’t see this side of life, we forget that milestones don’t happen without the miles of hard work. We compare ourselves to the milestones we haven’t been able to accomplish, and our heart sinks into the feeling of “not enough.”
A New Approach: Values Over Goals
What if this New Year we choose something different? Instead of focusing on a fixed goal or target, we challenge ourselves to embrace a new value or theme for our year. Throughout the year, we allow this theme to guide our hearts and choices toward a healthier us. If we struggle with anxiety and being still, maybe our theme for 2024 could be “peace” or “balance.” If we struggle with depression and motivation, maybe our theme for 2024 could be “adventure” or “self-compassion.”
Picking a theme or value instead of setting a goal will allow us to explore our hopes and dreams in a different light and achieve life balance. To not force new year resolutions, but make intentional choices about how we pursue our values, giving ourselves the grace and permission to shift the endpoint when needed. Here’s to 2024 being about self-improvement and ditching the constant search for ‘the next thing.’
Let’s take the time to refocus on finding joy in the journey.
Author: Amy Fox, DNP
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