Contemplating Change: Evaluating and Moving Toward Healthy Solutions in the New Year.

Contemplating Change: Evaluating and Moving Toward Healthy Solutions in the New Year.

By Yvette Morton

Well… we’ve come to the end of another year, and what a year it has been! Here we are, months into a global pandemic and political roller-coaster ride, facing a new year of possibilities. We may be thinking forward to 2021 and the goals and resolutions we hope to accomplish, or we may prefer to stay in the present moment, taking things one step at a time. Whatever your preference, we often find ourselves beginning to contemplate changes at this time of the year. Sometimes it is to face situations or challenges that are impacting our lives in unhealthy ways.

Our brains are powerful agents of change, yet we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed and stuck, unsure of how to get started. We assume that if we can make that resolution or set a goal, the sure force of willpower will see us through. Anyone who has made a New Year’s resolution only to have it fall apart within days or weeks knows what I am talking about. Even when we are deeply aware that a change needs to happen in our lives, it can be a challenge to get from deciding to change and doing it.

You may already be considering solutions to a situation or problem in your life that needs attention. During this contemplation stage, we begin to acknowledge that something needs to happen and ponder the costs and benefits of moving ahead with a plan of action. It is common to experience fear and uncertainty, and this keeps many individuals from getting started. However, even if New Year’s Resolutions aren’t your style, there are some helpful steps that you can take to move forward successfully.

  1. Be kind to yourself and observe the emotions that may arise as you contemplate a change without judging or labeling those feelings as good or bad. Awareness is one of the most essential steps toward meaningful growth, but it can be uncomfortable and scary.

2. Acknowledge periods in your life when you have overcome challenges. Reflect on the setbacks you may have experienced, and the specific skills and strategies you used to keep moving forward. Identify individuals or communities that played a role in your past success and where you can find similar support today. Recognize that you can do hard things and draw upon that energy as you move forward in this new direction.

3. If you are ready to move into action, try setting a goal, but make sure it is SMART! Write down your goal and make sure that it is Specific (narrow and not too general for effective planning), Measurable (define evidence to prove that you are making progress, and reevaluate as needed), Realistic, Attainable reasonably achieved within a specific timeframe, Time-Based (has a realistic end date). Check out https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm for more about creating SMART goals.

Change NEVER happens in a straight line, or quickly. We must be patient and willing to take small steps, make adjustments to our plan as needed, and view setbacks and challenges as growth opportunities. Embrace the journey!

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