Episode 3 of the Get Psyched with Ayan vlog series.
I must admit that I have sucked at New Year’s resolutions in the past and breaking them always made me feel guilty and feel like a loser. I also tried all those goal setting tricks, like putting down specific goals, breaking them into smaller pieces, developing an action plan, etc. That seemed to help to some extent, but I would still give up in a few months.
It was not until 2015, when I started seeing therapy clients for my clinical internship that I started realizing that I was going about goal setting the wrong way and that the way we conceptualize New Year Resolutions was ineffective.
Before we go into what I discovered, I want to break down the top 2 reasons in my opinion, why New Year’s Resolutions can be harmful for your self-esteem.
These resolutions are made with the energy of lack/fear/disgust behind them
I want more money this year, because I feel poor, better ratings at work because I fear being sacked, 6 pack abs because I feel disgusted with my belly. These goals have a deeper self-image and self-worth issue sitting at their core and even if you achieve those 6-pack abs, it won’t help your self-esteem. On the other hand, it might get you depressed or turn you into an anxious perfectionist, thinking that even with 6-pack abs, I look disgusting.
We remember our failures more vividly than our successes
Every year that you fail your resolutions strengthens the narrative that you are a failure. You may achieve other successes through the rest of the year, but our brains are hard-wired to focus on the negative. Hence setting unrealistic goals that are emotionally charged and then failing them is much worse for your self-esteem, than accepting who you are and not making those unrealistic goals.
Having covered that, let’s shift gears and talk about how we can achieve our goals in a way that improves our self-esteem.
I like to call it – Setting Themes for the New Year.
I want to give you a personal example to illustrate and then share some tips on how to develop your own theme.
In 2016, I chose 2 new themes and continued building on an existing theme.
My existing theme, which started in 2014 was self-expression. Under that theme in 2014, I started my blog and website from scratch and started writing. In 2015, I took up 2 dance forms – contact improvisation and Brazilian Zouk, to express through my body. In 2016, I strengthened this theme by improving my contact improvisation skills, restarting my writing and creating a youtube channel and a vlog, as I really wanted to share my perspective with you all.
The 2 new themes were –
Working on my masculinity and reconnecting with my repressed Wild Man archetype
Under this theme, I started doing men’s work. Accomplished the New Warrior Training Adventure, with the Mankind Project in June 2016. Developed healthier relationships with men. Got more into backcountry camping and bushcraft and started focusing on men, as a psychotherapist.
Stepping into the Psychotherapist part of me fully
Under this theme, I pushed through and completed my psychotherapy diploma. Applied for and received my Registered Psychotherapist designation, which was a huge pain in the ass process. Started working at Holistic Healthcare Centre in Vaughan and took 3 major courses in psychotherapy this year.
None of these themes have been completed, and I am happy with what I have achieved in 2016. For 2017, I am not adding any new themes and plan on developing these 3.
As you can see, these look and feel very different from the New Year’s Resolutions model that we are all familiar with. So what’s different and how can you create Themes for the New Year. There are 3 important ingredients to developing a theme.
How do you want to feel on your journey within a theme?
This is the most important point and it is about how you want to feel, when you are working within a theme. It’s not about the goal. It is not about how you will feel once you have achieved a goal. It’s more about how you want to feel on the journey, within a theme. So for my masculinity theme, I want to feel my anger and my aggression in a healthy way. I want to feel closer and develop more meaningful friendships with men. I want to feel self-reliant and confident in nature and tap into a more primitive part of my psyche. Also, are you able to enjoy yourself while working on a theme? How can you bring play into it? This requires developing a connection with our Inner Child and that is the topic of a future video.
Strengthening the underdeveloped parts to yourself
What are the parts of yourself that you think are underdeveloped? How can you create a theme to develop those parts, without guilting or shaming yourself? What resources do you need to develop these parts? How would developing these parts improve your self-esteem? These are important questions to ask yourself when developing a theme for personal growth.
Letting the goals within a theme evolve through the year
I do not have a set list of goals for the year that I need to achieve. Instead I let them evolve through the rest of the year. Sometimes we are not ready for a certain goal or a certain challenge and it is important to respect that. When a new opportunity or idea comes up, then I ask myself, does this fit into my theme? How does it deepen or strengthen my theme and what value it can add? Once, I am convinced about how achieving this goal will add value into my life and how it fits into a theme, I feel excited about the goal. Then I go about creating an action plan and to-do lists and all that. But not before this crucial step.
So go ahead and drop those New Year’s Resolutions and instead create new themes for the year. What theme are you creating for the New Year? How do you want to feel when working on that theme? Do you already have goals for your theme? I want to hear from you, so please drop in your comments and subscribe to my Youtube channel. I wish you an amazing New Year!