Dr. Deb’s Mental Health Vitamin: Set realistic 2019 goals
By Dr. Deb Wade
GCU Vice President, Counseling and Psychological Services
Michelangelo once said, “The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss it, but that we aim too low and reach it.”
Welcome 2019! We have survived to arrive at this new beginning and fresh start. What are you going to do with this new, clean slate upon which you get to write? Sure, the tradition is to make New Year’s resolutions, but too often by the second or third week of January, those resolutions already are broken, explained away, excused or forgotten. We may have the greatest of intentions to make profound goals of self-improvement – lose weight, quit smoking, make friends, establish balance, get more sleep, stay off electronics, exercise more – but if those goals are broken, we are often left feeling shame and self-disgust for not having more willpower or more staying power.
I have counseled with many folks who have described their lives as mundane, boring and too routine. On the other hand, others have sought counseling because they feel their lives are out-of-control with to-do lists, expectations of others, a compelling drive to strive and drive, and the resulting sense of exhaustion and imbalance. What is the answer for you in 2019? How can we achieve new heights of excellence (without workaholic tendencies) and, at the same time, relish in current achievements and blessings (without going stale)? Some thoughts of mine …
- Be Realistic! Let’s begin by setting ourselves up for success. Whether we are setting relationship goals, career goals or self-improvement goals, let’s set a standard that is accomplishable, achievable and celebration-worthy. The reason most New Year’s resolutions fail is because they are unrealistic:
— “I’m going to lose 50 pounds!” (Instead, “I’m going to lose four pounds this month”);
— “I’m going to run a marathon!” (Instead, “I’m going to work up to a mile, then begin adding on”);
— “I’m going to quit eating all sugar!” (Instead, “I’m going to cut back on cookies”).
When noble goals are not realistic, they are probably doomed to failure, which could result in self-condemnation.
- Be Idealistic! Oops, I DID just contradict myself. Why? Because being idealistic is not always the opposite of being unrealistic. It’s OK to be dreamy, starry-eyed and rather quixotic. Is it safe to say that all realistic goals have in their genesis one’s ability to think outside the box, a refusal to accept mediocrity, and an intention to dream big dreams? Of course! Those folks who end up saying that their lives are boring, mundane and no longer inspiring could use a little sass in their engines to jump-start the ability to dream again. For 2019, why not give yourself permission to dream the big dream?
- Be Altruistic! I think we all know this simple fact: When we reach out to help others, the great, warm-fuzzy feeling we get in return is one that can’t be bought! While we’re setting self-improvement goals for the year, perhaps we can sprinkle in some good old-fashioned “paying it forward” initiatives.
- Be Optimistic! We only need to turn on the television, pick up a newspaper or listen to the hallway fodder to realize that the world around us can be harsh, hate-filled, negative and scary. In the midst of that, why not set a realistic, idealistic and altruistic goal to be the shining light in the midst of this darkness? It only takes intention, spunk, attitude and a great big smile to light up any darkness. Why not set that as a 2019 goal … imagine if THAT action were contagious?
Yes, the calendar has turned to a new year, ripe with new opportunities and a blank slate that is begging to be written on. Remember the wisdom of Michelangelo as you begin to draw up a recipe for success – aim high, believe in yourself and run with grit and gusto toward the year that is YOURS to enjoy! Happy New Year!