1. Create an action plan. I’d get overwhelmed and lose confidence when I thought about a major goal. Break it down into smaller steps by month, week, and daily to-do lists. Actionable steps become manageable and doable.
2. Heighten self-awareness. People often seek therapy to raise their self-esteem or overcome addictions and codependency. If your resolution is to change your habits, self-awareness and vigilance are needed in order to interrupt old patterns. Daily meditation and journaling are potent and helpful tools in monitoring and changing your thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
3. Encourage yourself. Discouragement is normal. Become a positive coach, and continually give yourself positive feedback, praise, and recognition. Look for small signs of progress and celebrate them. If you have low-self-esteem, you may talk yourself out of your desires and think you lack the skill, worth, or ability to achieve them. Underlying depression does the same thing. Self-doubt and negative self-talk paralyze you in a past expression of yourself. They sap energy and motivation, and can easily persuade you to give up.
If you aren’t making progress or slip into old habits, don’t dwell on your “mistake.” Rather than stay stuck in self-judgment and guilt, admit what you did or didn’t do, and quickly get back on track. Stay solution-oriented. Ask yourself, “What am I going to do about it?” Self-forgiveness improves both self-esteem and future behavior.
4. Have a vision. To create a powerful motivation for change, picture yourself as you’d like to be and see yourself happy and confident behaving in the new way. Rather than focusing on what you don’t want, focus on what you desire. Here are some suggestions to manifest the new you:
• Draw the future you.
• Imagine what it would be like if you were the future you in this moment. See yourself carrying out your New Year’s resolutions. Notice the expression on your face, and experience how you would feel in your body. See the future you as having accomplished your goals. Experience yourself feeling proud, happy, and confident. See people in your life responding favorably to you.
5. Get support. Some changes entail facing the unknown or a perceived danger, such as life after a divorce, moving to a new city, or standing up to intimidation. They require courage, and support can be a great help. Addictions and habits are hard to break, especially if they’re driven by temptation, like drugs, food, and sex. Support and encouragement from friends, family, a mentor, support group, or therapist are vital until new patterns are established as part of your self-definition.
Many people make changes on their own. If it’s been difficult for you, or if you find it hard to muster motivation and self-discipline, it may be that an internal shift is required before anything external can permanently change. Sometimes, unconscious beliefs about yourself and what’s possible hold you back. Consider that therapy can lift depression and move you through the challenges outlined above. It can raise your self-esteem, facilitate insight, and guide you in facing the unknown and maintaining new behavior.
©Darlene Lancer 2011