What To Consider Before Setting Goals For The New Year

Every January, the possibilities held by the next 12 months yawn open. That fresh calendar spurs many of us to set lofty new goals for our lives. Our interior voices whisper: This year, it's going to be different. Sometimes our goals are ones we've set before, and sometimes they are fresh and new, but they all have one commonality-they are always full of vigor and purpose.

In the end, how do you get to where you want to be? How will this year actually be different? Perhaps the answer is not external, but internal.

So when you set your goals for the New Year, consider these five attitude shifts and behavioral intentions to help you achieve change:

1. Get quiet to hear what your heart is saying — and more!

How can we listen when the mind is constantly running on overdrive? Slow down, take a break and spend some time alone. Take a long afternoon walk and pay attention to what is going on with your mind and body. Ask yourself what it is you really want for yourself and your life, and then listen for the answer. It may be a quiet whisper, a feeling, or a full- blown message that's hard to ignore.

2. Start (or become recommitted to) a mind-body practice.

Finding a mind-body practice (such as yoga and/or meditation) helps to connect us to ourselves on a deeper level. The practice of yoga helps to clear and strengthen the body and restore awareness. Although traditional meditation practiced for centuries focused on deepening one's understanding of life, there are many practices today (such as mindfulness meditation) that relax the body and clear the mind.

Whatever style of yoga or meditation you chose, there is a growing body of research to support how these practices boost your health, well-being and the ability to make positive changes in your life.

3. Say goodbye to grudges.

Let go of past hurts and pent-up anger. Forgiveness heals. Forgiveness allows us to be able to move on with a clean slate. There are many ways to approach letting go of anger.

Find a book on letting go, seek counsel, or practice yoga. It is hard to be present and angry at the same time. It is hard to move forward without a fundamental shift, which is essential if we wish to change a lifelong pattern. Change cannot happen when we are weighed down with anger and resentment. We must forgive, not for the other people who have hurt us, but for ourselves.

4. Recognize what's in front of you.

Being grateful for what we have has a way of opening the door for more. Gratitude allows what we have to be enough, enabling us to let go of the struggle and open the door to more.

Write in a gratitude journal once a day, and include at least one situation in your life that has been a struggle; but instead of venting, find something good about it. Repeat a gratitude mantra throughout the day such as I am grateful for all that I have or My life is filled with abundance.

5. Practice self-compassion diligently and consistently.

What does this have to do with achieving your goals? Well, you will have good days and bad days along the path and it's important to practice acceptance of yourself. Whether a bad day turns into a good one can depend on how you choose to talk to yourself about it. If you are beating yourself up you are more likely to fall completely off the intention wagon and find yourself knee-deep in the mud and muck of self-deprecation. This is a difficult place to rise from and get back on track.

Instead, say to yourself, It's OK that I messed up. Now is time to get back into it. I can do this, and I love myself too much to let this little detour derail my larger goal.

We are driven by conscious and unconscious thought patterns. We have learned ways of responding to the situations of life. By becoming present and listening deeply and practicing mind-body philosophies, such as yoga and meditation, forgiveness, gratitude and self-compassion, we begin to shift away from unproductive patterns of thought. In this place we can begin to change and create a foundation ready to be built upon in a different way.

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