Happy New Year! Happy New Decade!
This seems to be the most common refrain shared among friends and colleagues these past few weeks. It’s a greeting filled with hope and anticipation, as well as tremendous expectation. It’s an opportunity for transformation. Out with the old and in with the new! Goodbye hard times, hello perfect happiness.
At the precipice of a new year, we are encouraged to change our lives – to become healthier, to improve our relationships, to find joy and fulfillment, and to just become better versions of ourselves…whatever that means.
But, here’s the thing: Change doesn’t just “happen” because we want it to. Change is slow. Change is arduous. Change requires soul-searching and self-reflection. It takes commitment and intention and accountability. And it certainly doesn’t happen just because the calendar says it’s 2020.
Change and growth are common themes at CALM as we help children and families heal from trauma and strengthen their abilities to chart a new future. For 50 years, we have been helping to break multi-generational patterns and to teach children and parents new skills to strengthen their relationships and change their lives.
In my experience, growth is built upon the foundation of past experiences. Growth comes from reflecting on our successes and our mistakes, our learnings and our blind spots, our moments of joy and our moments of great discomfort.
To chart a new future, we must take an honest look at where we have come from, where we are, and what we are willing to invest in – and sacrifice – to accomplish what we want. It requires us to think about our “best life” rather than our “good enough” life. And, while this may sound logical, it just might be the hardest part of living authentically.
Many of us set New Year’s Resolutions this time of year. Sadly, according to U.S. News & World Report, a full 80 percent of these resolutions fail by February.
So, what exactly goes wrong in the process? There are lots of reasons, different for each of us. For me, it all comes down to whether I’m actually ready for the change I seek.
As Shainna Ali, Ph.D. shares, “Growth isn’t a linear process. You may think you are interested in change – and you very well may be – but are you ready? Chances are, if you’re setting new goals for yourself, you are hungry for some level of change. But, failure to thoroughly consider the what, when, where and why” of the change you seek may inhibit your ability to enact it.
Here are a few tips – updated from author Kimanzi Constable – for creating lasting change:
1. Start with inner work. Each of us has patterns, struggles and self-limiting beliefs to address before we can hope to move forward. We must assess where we are and where we want to be. For me, sunset beach walks, get-togethers with friends, and time with my long-forgotten journal have been essential in this process. We need to (gently) confront that little voice in our head that gets uncomfortable at the mere thought of stepping outside our comfort zone.
2. Be honest with yourself. It’s so easy to lie – especially to ourselves. Real change starts with getting honest about the things that have held you back in the past, and what scares you about the future. Change occurs when you are vulnerable. And it lasts when you stay vulnerable. As hard as that can be, it’s the only way.
3. One step at a time. When you look at the big picture, it’s easy to get discouraged. If you want to lose 30 pounds, where do you start? If you want to leave a job or a relationship that no longer meets your needs, it is easy to get bogged down in how much needs to happen. Okay. Stop. Breathe. And, just think about the most immediate next step. Break the big picture into bite-size goals that you tackle each day or each week. That’s how real change happens.
4. Form habits. Lasting change is successful when you make lifestyle shifts versus quick wins. Incorporate the changes you want to make into your daily routine. Add them into your calendar, stick a post-it with a key message on your bathroom mirror, or think about specific goals when you’re drinking your morning coffee. Whatever helps you prioritize the things you want to change will influence the actions you ultimately take.
5. Stay accountable. Having support in your life can be the difference between success and failure. As much as we want to do this alone, having someone to be honest with or hold your hand when you stumble, is crucial. It can be family, friends or a therapist, but find “your accountability buddy” to avoid giving into excuses.
Creating a new reality for ourselves isn’t easy. But it’s so critically important. No matter what your intentions are for this new year, they matter and deserve your attention. I encourage you to take time to envision your “best life.” Really see it and feel it. Then pick one or two changes you can make to help you get there over the long term. You’ll be glad you did. Happy 2020!
— Alana Walczak is CEO of the nonprofit CALM (Child Abuse Listening Mediation), a leader in developing programs and services that effectively treat child abuse and promote healing, as well as programs that help prevent abuse through family strengthening and support. Click here for more information, or call 805.965.2376. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.