Is this you? January 1st you made your vision board with goals for the year. You planned to lose 10 pounds, leave work earlier each day, schedule time for self-care, and be more patient with your children. It felt good as you imagined it. You had some small successes and were on top of it. But here you are in May, possibly up a pound or two, staying later at work because of the new project you’re in charge of, sad you have no time to prepare healthy meals, never mind scheduling weekly massages, and you’ve lost track of how many times you’ve raised your voice to your children.
Reality got in the way. According to U.S. News & World Report, the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions is about 80 percent, with most losing their resolve by mid-February. The good news is that you’re not alone. The bad news is that you may feel ashamed and depressed. No one needs that.
As Jews, we have several opportunities, all year, for a fresh start if we’ve steered off the mark. The Days of Awe, from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur, are all about recalibrating, making amends, and cleaning the slate with ourselves, Hashem, and each other. New Year’s Day on the Gregorian calendar offers another chance. In the Hebrew month of Iyar, we elevate our thoughts, prepare our bodies, and clean our spiritual houses in order to purify our souls to receive the Torah on Shavuot.
But once off, how do we get back on track? First, release any guilt or shame you carry for making mistakes or falling short of your goals. Life is always changing and shame is a heavy burden that doesn’t serve you. You’re not flawed, you’re just human. Counter shame with compassion towards yourself and others. If you worked on nothing else but developing compassion, you’d be helping to heal the world. When you’re better, the world around you is better.
Next, consider if your goals move you in a direction you want or if they’re motivated by what others think you should be doing. Release guilt and view this as learning about what does and doesn’t work for you. Continually re-evaluate what matters to you and see if your goals, time, energy and money align with that.
Broad Range Goals
Broad range goals aspire toward a way of being or the development of a quality. For example, this may be the year you practice chesed, loving-kindness. Be mindful of making every act to self and others loving.
Love your body. It’s a holy vessel that houses your precious soul. Be kind to it. If you view it this way, you will feed it healthy food, protect it from the elements, keep it clean and hydrated, remove sources of stress that damage it, and allow it to rest deeply each night.
Set an intention to have loving thoughts. Negative thoughts can become words that hurt you and others. Listen to your thoughts and observe if you default into negative thinking. Ask yourself, “Is this thought loving?” Transform your thoughts until they’re positive.
Acknowledge your feelings because they are important. Own them, honor them, but don’t make others responsible for them.
Connect to nature and Hashem, which are forces greater than yourself, to keep things in perspective.
Specific goals focus on the accomplishment of a task. For example, you may decide to learn 25 useful Hebrew phrases before going to Israel in December. If you’re planning to learn one a week, then you’d need to begin in July.
Break it Down
• Make a list of your goals for the year and then choose one or two.
• Set actions on a timeline in three-month increments.
• Decide what your goal is for the first three months,
• Your expectation of what achieving it will bring you, (your why),
• What the small steps are to achieve it.
• Consistently take actions that bring you closer to your goal.
• Evaluate every three months whether or not your steps are realistic and if your goal still matters.
• Above all, be kind to yourself.
Terry Segal is a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “The Enchanted Journey: Finding the Key That Unlocks You.”