ACTing on New Year’s Resolutions

The calendar has flipped to 2018 and it is accompanied by questions of New Year’s resolutions. I have never been one to make, much less stick to, resolutions. It’s always too much work! Creating an idea of how I want my life to look or what I want to be doing more of (or less of) in the next year is a tough task to accomplish. This process is made difficult by societal and personal pressure to make healthier, smarter decisions for my life; naturally, healthier and smarter look different for each person.

Even after deciding on a resolution, following through on it is even more challenging. When I do not follow through, I feel guilty and angry that I could not finish what I had started. This is exactly why I have been reluctant to create a resolution in the past.

But, what if I could set myself up for more success in creating and sticking with a resolution? A great starting point to answering this question is with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).

Two of the foundational concepts in ACT are values and goals, but they are different ideas.

Values include such qualities as kindness, patience, and persistence; in other words, they describe how one wants to act or be when facing difficult obstacles in life, such as creating a resolution.

In contrast, goals are objectives we would like to reach in life; a resolution is a goal (e.g., lose 20 pounds in the next year).

ACT would not pass judgment on whether a goal to lose weight is a “good” or “worthy” goal. Instead, through the use of mindfulness and other processes, ACT would explore what values underlie said goal.

For example, the values that might underlie this goal include health, wellness, fitness, etc. This is the key – mindful, values-guided goal setting.

If people are in touch with their values, they can establish values-aligned goals, and are thus more likely to stick with the goal if the values are motivating them to do so.

After establishing goals and connecting with values, the question then becomes: What do I do if I fail?

The first thing to remember is to offer yourself compassion. Daily distractions or stressors will hinder our progress toward goals, and this is a universal experience!

What makes the difference is whether you are willing to a) make room for feelings of guilt or anger that you were pulled away from the goal and b) return to your values as motivators to keep pursuing the goal. Returning to the path of reaching the goal is always an option.

Here at The Refuge Center, we are ready to help you clarify your values, set goals, and create a life filled with meaning and purpose.