You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step. – Martin Luther King Jr.
Happy New Year.
We are officially at the beginning of the new year. For many, this means watching loved ones check-in at the gyms they have recently joined, seeing Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok posts about new goals friends and family have set for themselves, and seeing the infamous post, “New Year New Me.” To everyone who starts the new year off like that, I applaud you. Trying to better ourselves in any way is a wonderful thing. However, I have never quite understood the concept of New Year’s Resolutions or “New Year New Me.” Even as an adolescent, I asked myself, ‘Why wait until the new year to start a new goal?’ I also wondered why people wanted to be ‘new.’
It took some time for me to figure it out. When I did, though, I learned that the new year is a fresh start and a time to set new goals for many. Fresh starts and new goals can be fantastic and give us the opportunity for a clean slate. Little to no failures or insecurities to begin the new year. That can be a huge confidence boost, and that confidence boost can be the much-needed push we need to start something we have always wanted to do. The prospect of success can be a wonderful thing for our emotional health. However, there can be some struggles for many like me at the beginning of a fresh start.
One thing I have always struggled with when it comes to fresh starts and new goals is that I never knew where or when to start. I have set goals but haven’t included obstacles or challenges in my New Year’s Resolution plans. I also engaged in All-or-Nothing thinking and beat myself up mentally for falling off track or behind.
Over the years, through experience and with the help of friends, family, and my therapist, I have learned how to manage my New Year’s Resolutions. When it comes to where to start, I have learned that starting anywhere works. Given some of the goals I have historically set, I could have started anywhere. Because I had so many options, I ended up with analysis paralysis. Over time, I found that just like with cleaning, it didn’t matter where I started, just that I started. And once I started, my motivation kept me going, even if I changed directions. Sort of like Newton’s Laws of Motion, an object in motion likes to stay in motion. In this case, once I get started, it’s easier to keep going.
I experienced paralysis around when do I start. Do I start today? Do I start this weekend when I have more time? For the longest time, I struggled to find an answer, and because I struggled to find a solution, I tended to never start at all. After consulting with a friend and colleague over the years, I picked up one of his sayings, “The time is always now.” That phrase echoes in my mind when I want to start something new. If I want to start something, I need to start now. It doesn’t matter what it is I do to get started, but I need to start now.
Setting new goals for ourselves is wonderful. But, I’ve learned through numerous failures that I need to account for obstacles or challenges in achieving those goals. For example, in the beginning months of 2020, I set a goal to start working out more. I was doing well, being consistent. Then COVID-19 hit, and all the gyms around me closed. I had not anticipated on the gyms closing. Granted, no one could have predicted a worldwide pandemic that would shut everything down. That said, I hadn’t thought about not being able to work out, regardless of the reason. Now, when I set goals, I’ve started to include potential obstacles or challenges into my plans. I’ve also learned how to adapt to those obstacles or challenges. One obstacle and challenge I include in my goals now is COVID-19. I adapt to it by planning alternate ways of meeting my goals. In the example above, I reached out to a personal trainer and asked for an at-home workout plan to keep up with my goal.
Finally, I previously utilized All or Nothing thinking. I used to believe that I had to always do everything perfectly or nothing would change. Over time, I learned this isn’t the case. Rather than having everything be perfect or always giving it my best, I realized that giving the best of what I had that day was still good enough. I learned that it was more important to focus on progress, not perfection. This allowed me to accept that even a tiny amount of growth was still growth. Once I accepted that my fresh start and new goals were easier to accomplish.
If starting therapy is one of your goals for the new year, know that there are a number of therapists who could help you get started. All you need to do is contact someone. And remember, if you aren’t sure how to start, know that you can start anywhere.