Ah, it’s the new year! Happy 2018! What are your resolutions for the new year? Have you made any? (Hint: mine was to start this blog I’ve been thinking about for ages!) Or do you shun the concept of resolutions?
The new year represents a renewal of time; A chance to start afresh. And what better way to start the year than to set goals. But often, as I’ve seen in my practice, goals quickly vanish into oblivion only a mere few weeks in. All you have to do is go to the gym to see the trend. The first week into the new year the gyms are packed with newcomers trying to stick to their new year’s resolutions to get fit and lose weight. Then go back to the same gym at the same time a month later - the numbers have dropped significantly. It’s not because those people are lacking ‘willpower’ as is often claimed, but rather their goals might have been a tad misguided. Let me explain.
When we create a goal, it is usually set with an end point in mind (and sadly, usually weight-related). I want to lose 5kgs. I want to run a marathon. I want to fit into last year’s jeans. Ok, so yes, it’s great to have a goal! Most definitely! But what happens when you reach your goal? When you lose that 5kgs or run that marathon or fit into last year’s jeans what do you do? Do you stop exercising? For most people, the answer would be no. They would want to keep going because of another reason… and that is where your VALUES come into goal setting.
Goals are time-limited. They have an end product.
Values are lifelong beliefs that guide your actions (and goals).
A lot of my work with my clients is informed by ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Basically, the tenants of ACT that are applicable in this situation are 1) clarify your values in order to 2) inform your actions (for example, to create goals).
So, when you think about your New Year’s resolutions, as yourself these questions:
Once you have clarified your values, then it’s much easier to maintain your goals (or create new ones that are in line with the same values once you’ve reached your goals). For example, if you lose that 5kgs, then you’ve reached a goal. But if you know your value was health related (for example, improve or maintain cardiovascular fitness), then you will likely keep doing some sort of movement to maintain your cardiovascular fitness, such as joining a dance class or joining a local running group.
Anyone who knows me know that I greatly dislike weight-related goals because they tend to be based on the premise that if you lose that 5kg that somehow you’ll be a better person. Instead, I encourage you to focus on your values and look at weight loss, in particular, as a lovely side effect if you’re looking for it. Wouldn’t it be nicer (and more body positive) to enjoy going out with your cycling group and experiencing the side effect of weight loss more than simply trudging away at the gym to lose the 5kg? (That is, unless you love the gym.) This is a shift from body negative thinking to body positive - it includes both the body and mind.
Can you think of many more values/goals that do not relate to how you look on the outside, but focus on who you are on the inside. What motivates you? What inspires you? What makes you laugh? Makes you feel relaxed? What do you truly enjoy? That’s the real you. Clarifying your values will simply allow you to listen to the real you - to your deepest desires and needs - and move towards a deeper, longer lasting sense of self.
Allow yourself to be true to your ‘self’. And nobody else is a truer you than you.
For a common list of values published by Dr Russ Harris, check out pages 23-24: https://thehappinesstrap.com/upimages/Complete_Worksheets_2014.pdf
For more information on positive body image, check out: http://www.nedc.com.au/files/Resources/Body%20Image%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf