At no other time of the year do so many people think about personal growth
all at the same time. Fifty percent of Americans make resolutions to improve
themselves or their lives in some way during the yearly transition. There is an
overwhelming perception that change is possible. The hope for something new,
different and better in their lives is higher than at any other time of the
This tradition of celebrating the New Year goes back at least 4000 years to
the ancient Babylonians who celebrated it during Spring equinox. The tradition
of making New Year’s resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar.
With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future.
Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions.
Have you been swept away in this wave of
positive intentions and made your New Year’s resolutions yet? If not, here is a
list of what other people resolve to do. This may just spark your
introspective self to aspire to new heights. Of the 10 most popular New Year’s goals, four involve physical health related issues, three involve
mental health, two involve social activity and one deals with financial
improvements. Here are the top ten:
- Spend more time with family and friends
- Work out regularly
- Lose weight
- Quit smoking
- Enjoy life more
- Quit or reduce drinking
- Get out of debt
- Learn something new
- Help others
- Get organized
Research shows that 60% of these resolutions will be
broken as of the 6-month mark. The most important factor in preserving the
change is in the process of goal planning and writing.
The most comprehensive assistance for
writing effective resolutions comes from Gary Ryan Blair, “The Goals Guy.” On his site, you are able to download a free
21-page report which details the five stages of successful resolutions, taken
from the psychology of behavior modification, and also lists four important
resolution guidelines. Gary
also provides forms to guide you through the process.
If you don’t want to spend that much time
with it, I suggest that you at least use the S.M.A.R.T. guidelines in writing your resolutions. These
traditional goal-writing guidelines are used to insure that your goals are
specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound.
- Feel and
- Express your goal.
Whereas S.M.A.R.T. goals may appeal more to the analytical left-brain
dominant types, S.A.F.E goals may appeal more to those who are generally more creative
or right-brain dominant.
Once you have your goals written, check out
these seven recommendations from two University of Maryland psychiatrists
on how to maintain your resolutions.
If you need free online assistance to reach your goals, check out this impressive collection of web application tools at the
website lifehacker, specifically designed to help you manage your New Year’s
resolutions online including the goal areas of financial gain, weight loss and
fitness, calorie management and goal tracking.
And finally, here are some suggestions to stretch those of you who live more from your heads than your hearts. Inspirational personal development expert James
Arthur Ray , featured on the movie, The Secret, gives
the following five suggestions for self-actualizing yourself in 2008.
- Find inspiration and something you are excited about.
- Specify your intentions. Use the S.M.A.R.T. or S.A.F.E. goal
- Maintain attention and focus. “Energy flows where attention goes.”
- Be grateful. See www.gratefulness.org for more information.
- Be enthusiastic! Go three for three by aligning your thoughts with your feelings with your actions.
Happy New Year!
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.
I don’t know about
you, but I’ve been receiving many messages about ways to ‘survive’ the
holidays, as if the holidays were a war zone or a deadly plague. Certainly
buying thoughtful gifts, cooking big dinners and sending greeting cards is not
lethal. In fact, it’s supposed to be the “most wonderful time of the year.” But
for some people, the dashed expectations and roller coaster emotions can
provoke intense stress to the point of a panic attack.
Some of my clients
dread going home for the holidays because of the family gatherings and the
‘inevitable’ unresolved and perennial conflicts that occur. Others have high
expectations of Christmas or memories of dashed expectations of Christmases
past. The current one just never seems to measure up, they say to themselves.
It’s just not like it used to be. Of course it isn’t. How could we exactly
reproduce an experience from the past? Scientists haven’t yet figured out how
to clone experiences.
theory reveals that our thoughts create our emotional state. Therefore, if we
can control our thoughts, we can also control our emotions. Controlling our
thoughts takes a bit of practice however. It takes constant awareness of what
we are experiencing from the inside out. The distractions around us make this
difficult. Meditation is one way of focusing on what’s inside.
So at this point in
your preparations, three days before Christmas, take some time to become still
inside. Become aware of your expectations of what you would like to happen.
Even if it’s only for a few moments before you fall asleep, tune into what
really matters for the next few days. Prioritize the things you would like to
accomplish or the people with whom you really want to spend some quality time,
and let go of the rest. Tomorrow is another day.
But don’t take my word
for it. Check out some of these Holiday Survival Guides to help you navigate the emotional waterways of the holidays.
- About.com gives a wide array of advice on eliminating some of the stress
that comes with holiday cards, meals, parties, shopping and family gatherings.
- Here’s another
survival guide from a runner’s point of view in Runner’s World Magazine.
- The American Chiropractic Association gives advice on how to keep your body aligned during long hours of shopping.
- Here’s a great
collection of articles containing holiday advice for step families from The
- Kiplinger provides tips to help
keep your holiday spending under control.
- If you are a caregiver, here are some good suggestions for managing family visitors from Caregiving.com.
- Dr. Wayne Dyer helps you keep positive intentions about family gatherings in Natural Health Magazine.
- The 50+ community, Grownups, gives good advice on reducing holiday stress.
- A marriage and family therapist in Ontario writes about maintaining your relationship in Canadian Living.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist practicing in Geneva.
For therapy to be
effective, you need a really good to great relationship with your therapist. The
therapeutic relationship is one of the most curative factors in psychotherapy.
The father of modern American psychotherapy, Carl Rogers, based his work on
this principle. In his classic book, On
Becoming a Person, he explains that therapists must be genuine, have
empathetic understanding and unconditional positive regard for the client. When
these three conditions are met, therapy has the best chance for success.
Dr. Wu’s Healing Art – Peach
You know that feeling
when you’re in the presence of someone with whom you can just let your hair
down? With whom you don’t have to be at your best? With whom you can just be
yourself? With whom you can show all your imperfections and be accepted and
appreciated all the same? That’s the feeling that you want to have when you’re talking
with your therapist.
How do you find such a
healing relationship? Well, how would you find a new friend? Talk to a number of therapists, just call them
on the telephone, until you find one where you are saying to yourself, “I
really like this person.” Of course it would be prudent to also ask them about
their professional experience, training and therapeutic methods. But go with
your intuition on this one. It’s not uncommon for someone to try one or two
before finding the right one.
English-speaking therapists in Geneva,
take a look at these on-line directories: AngloInfo; Counseling in France; XpatXchange. Also, the American
International Women’s Club magazine, Courier, has a good selection of
therapists in the Petites Annonces section.
David Schiesher is a psychotherapist in private practice in Geneva.
(This article is reprinted with permission from the GWIT web site.)