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Why it’s good to set goals for a new year (and some keys to achieve them)

Surely last year you made a wish list for 2022; probably little to nothing came to fruition. Nothing happens just by writing it down, but the good news is that there are some tips for making those goals do happen.

“Will the New Year be the best time to start your new ideas?” asked entertainer Ellen DeGeneres. “I mean, you wake up at noon, you’re hungover, you don’t quite know where you are. It’s not the right instant to start a new diet-sometimes there are more pressing priorities like knowing where my pants are.”

If youth hasn’t left you yet, maybe you’re planning to party on the 31st. It’s likely, then, that on January 1st you’ll be a footy scourge. On the other hand, it’s also possible that you’re coming to the end of the year almost at a crawl and your resolution or desire is simply for life to give you a break.

But there, in between, is a large group of enthusiasts who fill their hearts with hope and wishes that next year will be better and a series of decrees will be fulfilled for them. Where does that come from? Let’s go with a very brief history lesson.

January, month of the new
As reported by Isaiah Sharon, psychologist, creator of the Integrative Coaching Model and podcaster, in ancient times the beginning of the year was celebrated on March 1. But Julius Caesar, in 47 BC, created the Julian calendar, where the season begins in January, a month consecrated to Janus, god of the new and beginnings, and not in March -for Mars, god of war-, as it was classically done.

“Then, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII created the Gregorian calendar and established January 1 as the starting date of each year,” he explains. “It was in this way that on the eve of January 1, to celebrate new beginnings, people would say prayers and raise their wishes for the times to come. Since then, we have the cultural ritual of thinking about new goals and decrees for the year that is about to begin,” he concludes.

Perfect. Now that we know where she’s coming from, we can move on to the important part: how do I make my New Year’s decrees come true?

The power of the decree
“Making plans or decrees for the new year is an interesting way to visualize what we want our future to look like,” says Carla Garcia, psychologist, mindfulness instructor and co-founder of BrotaConsult.

She suggests that this idealization be done from a “conscious and non-reactive” basis. What does this mean? That the decree be accompanied by “a full awareness of how we feel, how we value our life in the present and whether we accept it as it is.”

Otherwise, he warns, “decreeing may seem more like an impulsive reaction to try to erase our current dissatisfaction rather than a conscious response to it”.

He proposes, why not, a small mindfulness exercise: “The most important step to decree something is to do nothing, to decree nothing, to make an attentive and connected pause with what I am feeling without having to respond to it”.

The next thing is to sit quietly and slowly bring the attention to the breath. Simply pausing to observe both our feelings and physical sensations. “Without trying to stop what I don’t like or focus only on what I like,” she says. “Just opening up attentive listening, with a receptive attitude to everything that’s going on.”

“Decreeing or wishing has the power to motivate us, to help us put our mind and our abilities toward a focus. This leads us to action and achievement. Decreeing helps to focus the mind, to feel enthusiasm and excitement, basic principles to help make things happen,” Sharon assures.

But there is a but. There always is. Sharon says that after we decree something, “we must stay focused on it, prepare and work.”

Do’s and don’ts
The scales of your decrees are likely to be tipped on the side of unfulfilled desires. This is true for most people. There is no figure or study to confirm this, but there is nothing to disprove it either, so we’ll run with that intuition. Why does this happen?

“It’s a number of things that can cause our desires to go unfulfilled,” notes Sharon. One of the most common problems is having unrealistic expectations. “Wanting to do much more in the next twelve months than a person can actually accomplish, either by time, ability or context.”

This causes, he warns, that wishing becomes a space of frustration and “that people wish more out of ritual than conviction, and do not see it as an opportunity to return to having a north that motivates their behaviors”.

Another mistake, he assures, is to desire things that are beyond personal control. For example, “that another person changes, or that the context be this way or that way”.

“Wishes should be focused on those areas in which one can have a say, so that one can then dedicate oneself to fulfilling them. Wishes should be challenging but realistic, something that can be achieved with existing resources,” he advises. Adjusting expectations, therefore, is key.

A good start, Sharon suggests, is to recognize what we have learned during the year and what we want to learn about ourselves during the coming year. Garcia reveals another password: “focus more on being than on having and doing.”

It is essential that together with the ideas of what you want, you make a list of behaviors and decisions to focus on those new habits that must be implemented. That is to say, together with the decreed objective, make a kind of pre-decree, identifying what things, principles or values (for example perseverance or self-discipline) I have to develop so that the road to that goal can be paved.

“It is advisable to write down the determinations with estimated dates, as clearly and realistically as possible, including probable obstacles and some ways to overcome them,” adds Garcia.

Finally, Sharon proposes “to establish a commitment and find the internal motivation for what you want. Because decreeing is easy, but committing ourselves every day to achieve what we want is the great challenge. In this line, she agrees with this phrase of Carl Jung, founder of analytical psychology: “Who looks outward, dreams; who looks inward, awakens”.

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