With every new year comes a new set of goals.

But Debbie Cockreham, owner of Living Positively on Purpose Counseling and Life Coaching, wants to change the average approach to New Year’s resolutions.

She still recommends you apply the fundamentals of building a habit first, however.

A successful New Year’s resolution begins with setting realistic standards. Someone might have a goal of losing 20 pounds, but even this is too daunting a number. It is much more realistic to start with the goal of exercising for even five minutes a day.

“Everybody’s time crunched, our society is so busy,” Cockreham said. “Five minutes might be great, because that’s five minutes more than you were doing before. Then, as you balance things, and you realize you feel better, you’re going to add it to six or seven.

“That’s where you build on your success.”

But to introduce a mentally and physically healthy habit to your life in 2022, you will have to approach the task from a place of positivity and self-love.

So often, a New Year’s resolution is set due to a negative, extrinsic motivator brought on by a sense of shame. For example, one’s motivation to lose weight can spawn from guilt seeing others exercising. A resolution to have a healthier diet might be motivated through guilt according to a friend’s eating habits.

The outside stressors of the world are difficult to break, but Cockreham said it is essential to put a positive spin on the motivation behind a resolution.

“We have to make sure that the resolution is something you want to do, not what you think you should do,” Cockreham said. “‘Shoulds’ are always self-judgments, which usually are based from shame, either from ourselves or other people.

“Something we want to do must spark some kind of passion and purpose that makes us feel more positive and kind to ourselves.”

Instead of having a goal of losing 20 pounds because of a doctor’s recommendation, or quitting smoking because a friend dislikes the habit, say, “I want to lose enough weight to keep up with my teenager when we’re hiking this summer.” This is taking the goal, framing it from real perspective and making it a personal passion.

Unfortunately, we live in a negative world. Stressors and criticisms lie around every corner, so it’s understandable that this would inevitably seep into the way we interact with our conscience.

From critiques in the workplace to a child receiving a bad grade on a homework assignment, it takes a good deal of effort to approach goals in a positive light.

“Listen to the tone of your self-talk,” Cockreham said. “If it’s harsh and critical, think about if you were talking to your child, your wife, your employer, anybody. Would you talk to them in that tone? Probably not. So, if not, why do you feel like you have to be so hard on yourself?”

Accomplishing a resolution at any point in the year is nearly impossible without your conscience on your side. The difference lies in developing that positive self-talk, which comes in small steps, rather than one immediate solution.

While it is up to the individual to be their “own best coach and cheerleader,” having a good support system is equally important. Choosing friends, family and coworkers that will encourage you in a positive way can make all the difference in whether someone can stay on track with their goal.

Positive thinking sounds separate from the topic of sticking to a New Year’s resolution, but it is essential for implementing a healthier lifestyle choice.

“This is where the positive, believable statements for your goal will really be important,” Cockreham said. “The more you concentrate on your positive, believable statement, the better you can stay on the outward behavior toward that goal and then share the positive believable resolution or goal with only one or two encouraging people that won’t ‘should’ you.”

Not actively achieving a goal serves as a sign that your motivations might be coming from the wrong place. It’s possible that you have assumed someone else’s goal, or given in to what you feel like your goal should have been.

It’s OK to switch goals. In fact, Cockreham encourages those pursuing a New Year’s resolution to gravitate away from a physical goal in exchange for a conceptual one.

Rather than having a goal of exercising, she suggests picking a word for the year that you would like to live by. What this does is fundamentally break down a larger goal, which allows for one to reorient themselves in their day-to-day life.

“The word might be ‘compassion,’” Cockreham said. “I want to work on self-compassion, compassion for other people, and out of that, automatically, some goals, some awareness will come to you.”

Approaching a resolution this way alleviates a good deal of pressure, and actually allows for a more realistic transition into the new year.

Will Carpenter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s Arts and Entertainment/Features Reporter. He can be reached by email at wcarpenter@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3135. Follow him on Twitter @will_carp_.

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