Starting Over: Developing Foresight this New Year
People are decidedly resistant to change, yet if you think about it a little – changing is almost all we really think about. We want to move forward, move away from negativity, move past the past, make a move into self-actualization and move on with life. It’ll be hard to find a person whose new year’s resolution is to stay exactly as they are throughout the year. We are constantly looking to change, and change is certainly good at being constant (admittedly not always quite in the direction we wish for though).
It is not difficult to make goals and to have something to change towards, but not always easy to get there. Especially if it’s the kind of goal that requires daily input from your end. Whether your goal is to lose weight or write in your journal or meditate regularly for mindfulness, contributing actively to meet these goals takes work. This is the beginning of foresight, that you are not naïve enough to think it will be easy. The truth is that our experience has taught us everything we need to know about making our future goals fruitful.
Here is a list of things your experience has already taught you, and you simply need to tap into to move towards whatever change you are looking to make this new year:
A goal is in the Future. A goal refers to a point in the future we would like to reach that we are not at in the present. For instance, wanting to lose 10kg sounds exciting and big, and it’s enticing just to imagine what you’ll look like that many kilos lighter by the end of the year. Unfortunately, our imagination stops there and how we’re going to get there becomes as vague and uneventful as “I’ll exercise everyday”. This brings us to our next point:
The path is in the Present. We're after what’s at the end of the path, but the path is unclear in our mind to begin with. Transform future goals into present actions that you are inclined to realistically engage in. If the goal is to “lose 10kg”, the path is formed by considering and specifying answers to questions like the following: Will it be through diet or exercise or both? How much time in the day can I realistically give to work on this goal? What meaning does this goal really have for me? It requires great self-reflection to pave a path for change.
Mood is fickle-minded. Therefore, it is hard to simply rely on good intent and willpower to make long-lasting changes because so much of our actions are determined by what mood we’re in on a particular day, and for a lot of us, our mood is difficult to control. Therefore, always look out for the part of you that wants to cheat and get away from doing something. Practice mindful awareness and recognize that your feelings or your mood don’t define who you are or what you do. This is closely related to the next point:
The task will not always be enjoyable. The steps required to reach your goals may not always be enjoyable. Although research shows that one is more likely to continue activities that they are interested in or enjoy doing, sometimes the plain truth is that it may not be fun every day. Every attempt should be made to make it fun for yourself, but on the days that it is not, understand that the task does not necessarily have to be enjoyable in order to be important.
Decide the end when you start. Good goals must have an end-date. Give yourself a specific timeline to work on your goal, and give it closure. Recognize that routines are not meant for forever because life is very long, and things will change. Instead, simplify and make goals that are doable and that can be completed, which in turn will make it more likely for you to be motivated enough to work on new and other goals in the future.
The best way to develop foresight is to gather what you have learnt from your past, because it gives you a perfect map of your record – what has worked for you, exactly what stops things from working, what motivates you and what discourages you. The best way to develop foresight then is hindsight, and the best way to implement change is action with insight.
About the Author:
Debanjali Saha is a therapist-in-training who has been writing for Silver Oak Health since May 2016. She has a Master’s degree in Counselling Psychology from Montfort College (Bangalore University). Apart from providing counselling services, Debanjali is highly interested in expanding research in the area of Self-Compassion and has conducted several workshops on the topic in and around Bangalore. In 2015, she published her first research paper entitled ‘The Role of Surrender through Self-Compassion among Young Adults in Long-term Relationships’ in the International Journal of Current Research. She is currently working on a 7-day intervention program on cultivating self-compassion as part of her Master's thesis. When she isn’t working, Debanjali enjoys reading, playing with animals, composing music and painting. A personal mission close to her heart is to play an active role in freeing captive killer whales from organizations that use these amazing creatures for popular entertainment.