A patient asked me what I thought of New Year’s resolutions a few weeks ago. The short answer: I love New Year’s resolutions! Anytime you decide to make a change for the better can be really healthy and positive. I encourage my patients to do this all year long! The special part of making changes at the start if a New Year is that the momentum that is practically palpable. Everyone is talking about it and you might as well take advantage of this positive energy swirling about. But there is one thing I do not like about New Year’s Resolutions, that is, how hard people are on themselves when they derail. We negatively impact our mental health if we beat ourselves up for these mistakes. I hate to see mental health suffer for the sake of reaching a New Year’s resolution.
How do you respond to yourself when you don’t live up to your resolution? Do you just quit entirely? Do you beat yourself up for a while? Do you feel sorry for yourself and go back to old habits? Or have you mastered the compassionate self-talk that results in a rapid recovery of getting back on track with your resolution?
How can we maintain positive mental health while trying to achieve our New Year’s resolution? The answer: get good at making mistakes. I don’t mean do you make a lot of mistakes, I mean do you handle making mistakes well. How do you respond when you make a mistake, misstep or totally derail from your plans to achieve your goal? Making mistakes well is a skill that many adults have not yet mastered. Here’s 6 steps for becoming a mistake-making master.
First, you need to accept that making mistakes is part of reaching your goal. Don’t be surprised when it happens.
Plan for Mistakes
Second, develop a game plan for when you derail from your goal. If you are not a master mistake-maker yet, consider this: making a mistake allows you to learn and improve at your ability to make mistakes. Think of your mistake as an opportunity to learn something about yourself. Have some positive responses planned for when you make that first mistake. Write those down and hang them where they are visible.
Make a Mistake
Make a mistake. Now its time to learn something about yourself and make improvements if needed.
Evaluate Your Current Mistake-Making Abilities
Next, take note of how you think or talk to yourself after you make mistakes. What is the tone of your self talk? Do you sound like a nurturing, kind mother or a cruel and angry drill sergeant? Speaking to yourself like a cruel drill sergeant will not be good for your overall mental health. The drill sergeant motivates by fear, anger and anxiety. The calm, nurturing mother motivates by love and inspiring you to be your best. Its because you know deep down that you are loved and someone believes in you that motivates you to be even better!
Improve Your Self-Talk
The worksheet, Cruel vs. Compassionate Self Talk will be helpful as you listen to your thoughts and strive to improve the tone of those thoughts. Use those statements you prepared ahead of time. Ask yourself the questions on the second page of the worksheet to get more ideas.
Accept the Mistakes You’ll Make Along the Way
Learning to think differently takes a lot of work. Just like working with a trainer takes time and practice to start seeing physical results, the same is true for re-wiring our brain. You are currently in a habit of thinking that will take time to change. At first, your old way of thinking will be automatic. As soon as you notice the old way of thinking, pause and practice the new way of thinking. Here’s an example. Let’s say the situation is that you miss your workout for the day. This is an example of what could occur in your thoughts: “How are you ever going to get healthy if you can’t make it to the gym? What is wrong with you, two weeks into January and you are already screwing this up? (automatic negative thoughts) Oh, wait, that’s the kind of negative thinking I want to change (notice without judgement). Ok, let’s see, what can I change it to? How about, that’s too bad you missed your workout today, it would’ve felt good to get that in today. But, missing days is part of the process. Missing today will not stop me from reaching my goal. When can I fit my next workout in? I’ll make this next workout especially enjoyable and allow myself 5 minutes to sit in the spa afterwards (practicing positive self-talk).”
Go ahead, make a New Year’s resolution and while you’re at it, become a mistake-making master!
Happy New Year 2018!!