“Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change.”
Have you made your New Years’ resolutions yet? 93% of us set New Year’s goals but only 19% of us keep them past February, according to the American Psychological Association.
Setting goals a good thing – it means you are taking time to evaluate yourself and your life over the past year and decide what you would like to change in the new year. And when you commit to change, you’re taking the first step toward whatever it is you want to accomplish.
Individuals with a brain injury are continually working to improve their lives, and making New Year’s resolutions may feel even more important. Examples of goals for someone recovering from brain injury might be:
- I will walk to Starbucks and order and pay for a cup of coffee independently.
- I will drive my car again.
- I will get a job as an assistant teacher.
For any of us, sticking to goals can be difficult, but there are some critical steps to take that make it more likely we’ll keep our resolutions.
- Start with specific “micro-goals”. People who actually achieve their resolutions tend to set much smaller (or short-term) goals that are very specific and realistic. These are goals that build up to that big, long-term brain recovery goal. They are the pre-requisite skills that you will need to accomplish your long-term goal. For example, if a big goal is to order a cup of coffee at Starbucks independently, then your micro-goal might be to read a map to plan the most efficient way to reach Starbucks in 3 out of 4 trials. Read more about micro-goals here.
- Don’t make a goal you will never want to do. That’s a recipe for disaster. Is your resolution such a chore that you can easily find any excuse not to do it? If you’d rather clean out the garage than keep your resolution, then reassess your goal! And it’s important to make resolutions that have deep importance to you rather than things that you think are expected of you, or what someone else says you should do.
- Document your progress. It’s hard to stay focused on goals if you don’t see yourself making progress. Jot down your successes and challenges in a journal or keep a simple spreadsheet of milestones (and ask for help doing this if writing or typing is difficult) – this will help you to assess where you are in your journey and adjust your efforts accordingly.
- Practice patience and forgiveness. If things don’t go smoothly (and they often don’t) acknowledge that no one is perfect and that you are still on the right path. And goals are not set in stone. If you need to, change them. The purpose of goals is to help you improve, and if a goal isn’t doing that, or is just making you feel discouraged, it’s time to tweak it.
- Schedule in time to achieve goals: Time is elusive and often slips away from us with busy schedules and competing interests. So, schedule time for your resolutions on your calendar, too. This could mean blocking off an hour each day or dedicating a Saturday morning each week to one of your goals.
Whatever your goals are and wherever you are in your recovery, we wish you hope and health in the New Year!