Happy New Year! Congratulations, we’ve all reached another milestone and are beginning a new year full of hopes and dreams. That’s one way of putting it. Another way is, “I’m a year older and what have I done so far in my life?” Both are ways in which we can reflect on our lives. The first starts off with a promising first step whereas the second doesn’t guarantee that our thoughts will go in a positive direction…UNLESS we follow the question with the second phrase, “And where do I want to go now?”

That’s the idea of new beginnings. You start off with a clean slate, wipe away all the past stuff that’s negative and a downer, and focus on that which is optimistic and encouraging. Why not? It doesn’t cost you any more to be upbeat than to be critical. In fact, it’s just the opposite. It’s like putting money in the bank because you are doing something very good for yourself which will pay big dividends. Being critical is withdrawing funds and can soon leave you bankrupt, bereft of motivation and hope. 

Nancy is a 42-year-old married mother of three adolescents. She has a small home business that she fits in between running the household and errands. She doesn’t have much time for herself because of all the demands in her life. Her husband is supportive but he too is very busy with his private practice. Lately, Nancy has been feeling "blah." She’s tired, a little overweight, and concerned that she hasn’t had much time to take care of herself. At a holiday party, she saw some of her girlfriends and they talked about how busy they are and how little “me time” they all have, and in some ways have given up on making any changes. When Nancy got home, she felt determined to start the New Year on a different foot. The day after New Year’s she saw an ad for a health club offering a discount on an annual membership. She decided to join and for a full month, she took advantage of the exercise classes and pool. She enjoyed the time she spent with others exercising and being able to “free” her mind. However, she soon fell behind in meeting her family, home, and business obligations. She also wasn’t too crazy about following-up on the exercises when she was at home and watching her diet. Within a few weeks after joining the club, Nancy stopped going. Before too long, she was back to her old ways and life but with a new problem—the belief that this was all she could expect to have.

Nancy’s situation is not that uncommon; in fact, it’s far too common. She was able to realize some of the problematic issues she had in her life, and made an effort to change them. But, the effort was short lived. Why?

We all know how hard it is to change when you are stuck in a routine. It takes a lot of:

  • Effort
  • Determination
  • Will power
  • Endurance in the face of obstacles
  • Time
  • And self promotion

Making changes in your life should be done because you really want to and can see its benefits. The changes you want to make should enhance your life and help you fulfill your dreams. But you also have to be realistic and know that these changes may not come easily. Especially if you’re changing a long-standing trait or behavior. 

  • You have to make a COMMITMENT to yourself that you will do this because you believe it is psychologically and/or physically good for you. It is these beliefs that you will fall back on when you feel frustrated or thwarted by situations and people who may try to derail your dreams.  
  • It’s important to understand that when one person makes changes, it has a ripple effect. The changes in that person may affect others. For example, if Nancy is devoting less time to her housework, someone has to pick up the slack or the family lives in a mess. When one person tries to change, she or he may get some, a lot, or no support from others, which can affect how successful the change will be.
  • It always helps to have someone who encourages and supports you. But, ultimately, you have to believe in yourself and that even if you fall down (which we all do, sometimes a lot), you will be able to pick yourself up, start again, and achieve your dreams. 

This is your life. How do you want to live and experience it? You have to take ownership over it and direct yourself along the path you want to travel. Life is a journey, full of twists and turns, bumpy roads and newly paved streets. We can never be fully prepared for what lies ahead. But, if you want to go on this new path, don’t let the roadblocks stop you from fulfilling your hopes and dreams. Starting today, pledge to making your life the best trip you can. 

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