It’s that time of year. The devil on your shoulder has returned: “There she goes again, setting goals she’s never going to keep. It’s the 1st of the year, and she insists on making these goals that she’s only going to abandon and beat herself up about in a few days. This should be fun to watch!”
Sneaky little guy, isn’t he? Here you are, December 31st. Full of hope. Full of commitment to change. New Year’s is notorious as a time to evaluate where you are and set goals for the coming year. But human nature tends to slip up on those well-intentioned goals and by the end of January many have already given up. Subsequently, January has earned a reputation for being the ‘Most Depressing Month of the Year‘.
But what if we decide to flip that? What if we decide that THIS year, January is going to be the BEST month of the year?! “More easily typed than done!” you’re probably thinking.
Well, think of it this way. January is a brand new slate. A time to start over. A chance to leave behind any yuckiness from 2020 and create better days in 2021. Now it’s true that we don’t have control over a whole heck of a lot. We don’t have control over COVID, or whether or not we have to wear a mask in public, or a lot of other external circumstances. BUT, what we DO have control over is US…over the goals we set for ourselves…the life we want to create for ourselves…WHO we want to be! That’s pretty special.
So how do we escape the seemingly-unavoidable trap of messing up on our goals? Listen closely now….here’s the secret.
Are you ready?
You are not a robot! You prove that occasionally by deciphering strange wobbly words and typing them into boxes for online security purposes.
You are human and humans make mistakes. Accept this beautiful fact.
With that said, let’s punch that shoulder devil in the face and finally buy into the idea that bullying ourselves over falling short on goals will NOT help us progress! Self-imposed shame is not helpful in any way shape or form.
So let’s change our mindset about goal-making. Progress does not have to look like a straight line of perfection. So let go of that unrealistic expectation! Instead, embrace that it looks more like a wave, with ups and downs, valleys and mountains. We learn from the lows so that we can create the highs! And in the end, despite the dips along the way, when you step back for a panoramic view you will see that the general trajectory is upward….IF, and only IF, you don’t beat yourself up for screwing up on day one. That’s a big IF, but you can do it.
If you beat yourself up every time you make a mistake, you won’t progress at all. How many times have you given up on a goal because on day 5, or day 10, or day 90, you faltered and thought “what’s the point? I already botched it up!”
I have been there my friend, I have been there dozens and dozens of times. But mistakes are part of the game! They are how we grow and improve. Overcoming them makes us stronger!
But you need a strategy in order to accomplish these elusive goals. Here are some key steps to remember:
#1. Acknowledge the mistake WITHOUT falling into the vicious cycle of shaming yourself over a simple error.
#2. Be REAL with yourself about why it happened. Ask yourself, “what happened that led to this mistake? How can I make sure it doesn’t happen tomorrow?”
This step is really important. And notice what the question was NOT. The question was NOT “how can I ignore that I made a mistake and put off thinking about it for a month?” It is HUGELY HELPFUL to acknowledge the misstep early on so you can move on to step 3.
#3. Create a gameplan before you go to bed that night! Don’t ignore it and put off thinking about it until next month. Face it head-on, today! If you put off the course correction, it’ll be that much harder to get back on track…not impossible, but harder.
So back to the self-talk. Ask yourself, “How can I get back on track tomorrow? What can I do to make sure I move forward with my goal?” Have a plan in mind before your head hits the pillow. Write it down if you like!
Let’s review. Acknowledge the slip-up. Learn from it. Make a plan for tomorrow. And absolutely NO shaming yourself along the way. Genuinely no shame. Embrace it! Smell it! Breathe it in! NO SHAME, JUST PROGRESS! Make that a mantra for 2021 if you like! Repeat after me!
NO SHAME, JUST PROGRESS!
We are each a work in progress. So you made a mistake! Move on. Smash it tomorrow! Anne with an ‘e’ said it best: “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it” (from Anne of Green Gables). Tomorrow is a gift, make the best of it.
You can do this. You know how I know? Because you have done hard things in the past. You can do them again. You’re a mom, right? You’ve got this. Now GO AND DO!
***Brynne Wise wrote a really good post about the difference between shame and guilt, which perfectly supports this article. I really encourage you to read it. The basic idea is that guilt can be used as a motivator to change, which is good! But shame leads to self-loathing, which stops progress and leads to depression. It’s an important distinction to make and necessary for a healthy mindset when approaching goals! Check it out – Shame vs. Guilt by Brynne Wise.