New years are associated with new beginnings, prompting people to promise themselves that they will not repeat last year’s bad behaviors. Often, they know when they are lagging in certain goals — they want to shed 10 pounds, or become a better cook, or get higher grades in math — but identifying a problem that’s worth solving can be more difficult than finding a solution to it.
Motivation is needed to overcome obstacles, as well as realistic plans for reaching desired goals. The most detrimental action someone can do is push herself too hard, which often ends in failure. By taking small steps, and achieving goals over a period of time, there is a much greater likelihood of success.
Making resolutions and reaching goals are not simple tasks. Dedication is required to pursue them, along with sequential steps of progress, which will (hopefully) ultimately equal success.
First, one must be willing to identify the aspects of their lives that they would like to change. It’s easy to succumb to peer pressure and decide to change behaviors in order to conform, but resolutions should be made to better yourself and should be a personal decision. Thus, a resolution made on behalf of a fad or what’s “in fashion” is not as valuable, or as healthy, as those made purely to better oneself.
For example, vowing to lose weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions in the world, especially among women. Being overweight can be a serious problem, and it is important to be aware of its risks. However, one must strive to lose weight for the right reasons, such as health, not merely being motivated by societal pressures. A person’s weight depends on numerous factors, including bone structure and height. Therefore, not everyone is going to be super-model skinny, nor should she feel she has to be. We are all different, and even those who tend to be plus-sized can be confident and secure. Unfortunately, the messages the media promote as society’s accepted standards are not necessarily realistic. Individuality is precious and should be a source of pride, not shame.
Yet, no one is perfect, and there are legitimate things that every person seeks to change about herself. Do you procrastinate? Are you prone to interrupting others? Do you lose your temper more than you should, or are you slow to help out around the house? These are real problems that many people seek to fix. Often, people are well aware of their shortcomings, yet are not sure how to deal with them. Other times, one might not realize how much her negative actions affect those around her.
Family and friends are good sources of behavior identification. If your mother, spouse, or even your child, points out something that you do which bothers them, don’t become defensive. Instead, listen to them. Chances are they are merely voicing an opinion many others share.
This should not be taken as an attack, but should be viewed as a loved one’s attempts to help you change a damaging behavior that you may not even have been aware you were guilty of. Identify the real issues that you need to work on, and then will yourself to research ideas for how to alter the undesirable behaviors. In today’s “Google age,” it is simple to research methods to help you achieve your resolutions.
On the other hand, if you don’t succeed in your plans and fall behind on your goals, do not be overly hard on yourself. Emotions such as self-deprecation are negative and unhelpful — and even harmful — behaviors. Our expectancies can be violated, but they can also be reevaluated, readjusted, and reinstated. Failing to succeed is an unpleasant part of life that everyone has experienced. It is how we handle these setbacks that counts most.
January is generally considered the best month for new beginnings, all times of the year are suitable for starting anew and striving to make yourself a better person. Remember: if you fail the first time, you do not need to wait a year to try again.
Overall, it is every functional person’s job to take responsibility for her own behaviors, whether positive or negative. This system of mental checks and balances is usually referred to as self-modification, and it is a key factor in changing behaviors.
Part of being a mature person is knowing what is expected of you and what constitutes acceptable behavior within society. This is not to say you must conform to every “norm” or abandon creativity or individuality. Rather, concepts like self-modification and maturity serve as a reminder that it is OK to be different, but it’s never OK to behave in ways which harm, harass, intimidate, or disturb others. So if you are going to set goals and make yourself a better person, think of ways to help yourself and make the world a slightly brighter place at the same time. If reaching your goals makes you smile more, that automatically makes you more pleasant to be around, and everyone you encounter will enjoy your company more.
Emotions create a sense of atmosphere which directly influences society. When you set goals to be happier and healthier, you are removing negativity from your world and, subsequently, making everything connected to you more positive as well.
When you make your resolutions for this year, determine what you need to improve on and why you wish to follow through on that promise to yourself. Do not let others choose your path for you. Instead, strive to make healthy choices, and you will be surprised by how small changes can make a world of difference.
Happy New Year!
Meagan Meehan is an author and modern artist.