Mind Matters

June is a time of transition. The kids are out of school, the weather is getting warmer, and the days are getting longer.

Such seasonal or life changes often cue the brain that more change is coming, which helps open the mind to new ideas, creative thinking and innovation.

Many people focus on making New Year’s resolutions, but few think about mid-year resolutions. Mid-year resolutions represent a second chance and provide an opportunity to get back on track with goals.

Research shows that the majority of New Year’s resolutions are either not kept or not fully achieved. Many people make the same New Year’s resolutions each year, hoping that next year will be different, yet not planning for how to make things different.

Each time that you avoid working toward your goal, you reinforce your belief that you are unable to achieve that goal. This means that next January it will be even more difficult to keep the resolutions you set. Here are some common “can’t” statements and explanations people give for the failed goals:

I can’t lose weight … I just like food too much

I can’t get organized … I’ve always been messy

I can’t get in shape physically … I’m too out of shape for exercise

I can’t finish that project … I don’t have the skills, motivation, energy, or time

What are your “can’t” statements? What explanations do you give for your unachieved goals?

Role of Attributions

Research shows that people who attribute setbacks to stable and internal factors are more likely to feel discouraged when their plans fail.

For example, saying “I’m lazy” is a stable, internal attribution to explain a failure. The statements “I did not plan well” or “Other projects took up too much time” involve temporary and external attributions.

Thoughts and Behavior

Basically, if you tell yourself that your failure is due to unchangeable character flaws or personal weakness, you are more likely to feel discouraged and give up on the goal. However, if you attribute setbacks to external factors or changeable personal behaviors, you will feel more hopeful and be more likely to work toward solutions for success.

Our thinking impacts our behavior, and the resulting behavior then impacts our thinking. Internal and stable attributions may seem difficult to change, but even small victories will chip away at these attributions over time.

For example, working hard and appreciating your efforts will help you challenge and overcome the belief “I am lazy.” If harsh beliefs about yourself prevent you from working toward goals, be patient as you work toward developing healthier, more adaptive beliefs.

Through counseling, I have helped many people alter their negative beliefs and achieve important life goals.

Making Mid-Year Resolutions

Making mid-year resolutions may involve re-evaluating your New Year’s resolutions. List each goal you would like to achieve. Then list as many reasons as possible for your lack of progress. What barriers, real or imagined, have stood in your way?

Next, rate these barriers on a scale of 1 to 10 based on how much they got in the way of your goal.

For example, you might have written “I can’t exercise because sometimes I have to stay late at work.” If you often have to stay late, you may rate this explanation higher than if you have had to stay late only a few times.

Pay close attention to all ratings of 3 or above. For each barrier, list several possible solutions. If needed, ask for input from family and friends.

While making your mid-year resolutions, make sure that your goals are realistic. If you are in the habit of exercising once every few months, immediately increasing your exercise to five days per week may not be realistic.

I recommend stacking goals over time. For example, your initial goal may be to exercise 20 minutes once a week. After you get this habit established, you may add an additional day, and later add additional days, longer exercise sessions, or more difficult exercises.

Stacking goals in this way will allow you to feel a sense of progress, which will increase your motivation to stick with your goal and later advance to more challenging goals.

Dr. Julia Becker is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Waco. She provides counseling to adults and adolescents dealing with depression, anxiety, relationship concerns and life stress. She believes counseling is beneficial for anyone who desires to have a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. Email her at dr_becker@psybecker.com or go online to www.psybecker.com.