As I get ready to usher in a new decade, I am in a deep state of reflection. Is this where I thought I would be by now? In what ways have I grown? Do my relationships feel supportive? Am I making time to nurture my mind-body-spirit? How can I make an even greater impact on the world? Am I happy? What do I really want for my life?
The idea of wiping the slate clean can feel liberating. At the same time, I like to think about change as evolution. Like peeling back a layer of an onion, the new decade is an opportunity to discover an even deeper, more authentic version of yourself.
Below are four tips and corresponding “action steps” to help you embrace the new decade and continue along your journey towards better mental health and living your best life.
1. Set Clear and Attainable Goals
There’s a lot that goes into starting a new habit or making a change — new schedules, new skills, new hobbies, new friends, new environments, and new ways to nourish your body. If you take on too much at once, it can feel frustrating and overwhelming.
It is important to set clear and attainable goals in order to set yourself up for success. According to Joanna Filidor, LMFT and Talkspace therapist, it is common for people to create a goal that, for most of us, is unattainable. She gives the common example of the “I will go to the gym every day” goal. “The main problem with setting a goal like this,” Filidor explained, “is it is based on an all or nothing mentality — I either go to the gym every day or I don’t go at all.” Instead, she recommends identifying a goal that is attainable taking into account your lifestyle, work and school commitments, family/friends, etc. For example, if you work one hour away, five days a week, have commitments with family/friends, go to school, etc, it might be difficult to go to the gym every day without burning out. A more appropriate goal, according to Filidor, could be “I will go to the gym at least three times per week.”
Action Step: Take one of your big goals for the next decade and break it up into smaller, bite-sized pieces.
2. Celebrate Your Accomplishments
As a recovering overachiever, my default is to dwell on everything I haven’t yet accomplished — my company hitting six-figures, for example — instead of celebrating everything I have accomplished — receiving my yoga teaching certification, becoming a life coach, starting graduate school, and becoming an entrepreneur, for example. Filidor finds it’s easier to be compassionate with ourselves when we remember that most of us can look back at our lives and think about things we did not accomplish. Feeling that twinge of disappointment is a universal experience.
In order to focus your attention on what you did accomplish, it can be helpful to set aside time to write out all of your accomplishments (no matter how small they may seem). Then, allow yourself to reflect on them and feel a sense of pride for what you have already achieved.
Action Step: Write a list of all of your accomplishments from the past decade and find a way to celebrate those.
3. Surrender Control
We often think that letting go of the past — for example, past relationships, jobs, and habits — is an essential step in moving forward towards our desired reality. However, it can be hard to “let go” of the past when our hearts are still tender, like after a break up or having been laid off from a job.
Filidor believes it’s a misconception that the process of “letting go” is something that can be directed. “Although there are things that can be done to help move that process along,” explained Filidor, “ultimately it will happen when it happens.” Therefore, learning to surrender control and be gentle with yourself through the healing process is critical as you step into this new decade.
Action Step: Give yourself permission to take however long you need to heal your heart.
4. Chat With Your Future Self
I find it helpful to take a step back from my specific goals, in order to get a clearer picture on the overarching mission and vision I have for my life. By going through visualization exercises, meditating, and creating vision boards, I am able to connect with my core values. Only when I’m clear on my core values will I be able to set goals that are aligned with the direction I want to go.
Filidor likes to have people talk to their older self through letter-writing. She asks them to imagine they are talking to themselves in 5/10/15 years, and encourages them to think about what they would like that older self to have accomplished. She also asks them to identify what they believe their older self values in life. Finally, she asks them to imagine their older self giving their current self advice on how to achieve these long term goals. It’s a simple yet powerful exercise to make sure the goals you set for the new decade are right for you and your unique journey.
- Write a letter to your older self 5/10/15 years in the future and what you hope they will have accomplished and what their core values are.
- Write a letter from your older self to your current self about how to achieve these long-term goals.
The beginning of the new decade may greet you with many conflicting emotions. It is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on what you have accomplished and where you would like to take your life.
Be open to the possibilities. Be intentional with your goals. And most of all, be kind to yourself through the process.