We hear the phrase 'New Year, new you' bandied around a lot at this time of year. As if the current you were an apartment on The Block, getting ready for major renovation on January 1st.
The truth is you don't need to be a whole new you every year. 2018 may have been filled with lots of moments you really treasure. And I bet your nearest and dearest thing the current 'you' is just fine the way you are.
However, a life well lived is not a static life - we all need to keep growing and learning and part of this is understanding what we like about ourselves, what gives us joy, and what we're proud of. So, with this in mind, let's look at how this New Year you can be the same you, but better.
Take stock of your achievements
A lot of us, when we go looking for resolutions, start to pick apart all the things that we didn't succeed at in the year that was. The job we didn't get, the money we didn't save, the weight we didn't lose. Instead, why not go through the past year and list all your achievements. Perhaps you were given new responsibilities at work, maybe you got to see your favourite team play or managed to watch a whole four seasons of your favourite show.
Remember some of the smallest achievements can be the most meaningful, like finding the time to spend with loved ones, or the bravery to open up about something that was previously too hard. If you can look back at your year in review and identify just a few of these moments, you're doing well. Take pride in them.
Long- and short-term goals
Chances are you already have some long-term goals. Depending on your life stage they might be to buy a house, meet the love of your life, get that dream job or plan the perfect retirement getaway. You're probably also already taking incremental steps towards them. You might have out away money into your super, taken on extra professional development, or even started your house-hunting journey. These are all admirable steps and they're worth celebrating.
So, when looking at your goals for the New Year, think about where you're heading long-term, and what you can feasibly do this year to inch that bit closer towards achieving them. This may mean doing something a little scary or re-jigging a part of your life to fit things in. If, for example, you've been meaning to take on further study, it might be worth looking at part-time or online options. Or, say you've gone up an income bracket and you're dreaming of a comfortable retirement, perhaps it's worth considering putting that bit extra into super, spousal contributions or an investment portfolio.
The point it, it's only by appraising your successes of the past year, and being honest about what you can feasibly achieve in the New Year, that you can work towards those bigger goals.
Incrementalism pays dividends
Behavioural change inevitably takes a while to stick. That's why fad diets are often doomed to fail. There's a limit to how much we can change about ourselves in the near term, and often when the restrictions we put on ourselves are too much to bear we can end up right back where we started. Or worse, two steps back.
It's the same as moving a lump sum of money into a savings account, then dipping into it as soon as you've realised you were being a little too ambitious. Setting aside small portions each month means we don't feel the pinch as much, and we can reap the rewards of the interest that comes when we don't ouch the money.
The take-home point from all this is that meaningful, long-term change happens in small increments. So, as you step into 2019, visualize how you see yourself in twenty years, and what small steps you can take this year to make the future you a reality.
Celebrate the small wins, and learn from the little mistakes. It will make for a purposeful, and satisfying New Year.