This January is going to be different…

This January is going to be different.

Every January I make a host of New Year’s resolutions whether it be to lose weight, read more frequently, or eat healthy. However, like most people, by January 15th these resolutions are out the window. Ashamedly, I do nothing to stay committed to my resolutions. And even when I do try, I give up at the slightest, most minor derailment. I have no self-forgiveness for being imperfect. I just magically expect be able to make new lifestyle changes on January 1 and hold true to them going forward. My self-expectations are completely unrealistic and ineffective.

After much thought, I decided it was time to change this ridiculous yearly pattern. I decided to write down my resolutions, make several copies, and keep them in places that I frequently visit — including my desks at work and at home, my daily planner, and in my wallet. This strategy has worked quite well. I am constantly reminded of my goals, and this motivates me to try just a little bit harder and to stay true to my resolutions.

One of my resolutions was to read two books a month — one book for pleasure and one with practical application to my career. Ironically, both book choices this month really helped me nurture the process of standing true to my resolutions. M first selection was Shonda Rhimes Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person. As a huge Grey’s Anatomy fan, I just had to read Shonda’s book. In her memoir she says:

“Dreams are lovely. But they are just dreams. Fleeting, ephemeral. Pretty. But dreams do not come true just because you dream them. It’s hard work that makes things happen. It’s hard work that creates change.”

Shonda is 100% right. I can dream all I want of being a perfect 10, having the highest education available to me, and being the best therapist a patient could ask for, but none of that will actually happen unless I work effectively to achieve these life goals. But how do I make this happen? What is my game plan? I am a social worker whose career is based around developing appropriate plans mentally ill youths to get them to a point of safety, stability and personal growth. Why was it so hard for me to create a plan for myself?

My second book for the month, Awakening Your Inner Genius by Sean Patrick, was chosen to help me at work. I work with many developmentally delayed youths. I have learned that while many of them might have low IQ scores, with persistence, determination and perseverance they are able to accomplish much more than what was ever expected of them – even exceeding the perceived limitations of their IQ. In his book Sean explains that IQ is just a number and has no determination on who you will turn out to be. At the end of the day, your personality determines what you can and will achieve. This is true for everyone, not just those with developmental disabilities. Sean also discusses a study where goal setters develop a plan to achieve their goals. He explains that those who “wrote goals down, formulated action steps, sent them to a friend, and reported weekly on their progress – were 77% more successful in accomplishing their goals” than those who just wrote them down. So guess what? I developed a plan using this formula. I wrote down each goal and bulleted several steps to achieving my goals. Before I even had the chance to decide who I felt comfortable sharing this plan with and checking in weekly, I started to make huge leaps in achieving my goals. What I estimated would take 6 months to accomplish suddenly started to come together in just over a week. My original plan is already in need of updating before I can send it to a trusted friend for feedback.

As for now the next few months will be able to tell us whether I able to stay strong and committed to achieve my New Year’s resolutions. The game is on!