New Year Resolutions – Navigating the “Fresh Start” 

Heili Lehr, MA, LPCC –

There is something really satisfying about starting a new calendar year.  It feels like a time for new beginnings, starting fresh and making a commitment to real meaningful change in our lives.  There is something in our need for ritual and order that makes us feel like we need a specific starting line from which to spring into action toward anything new.  How many times do we start a new year with a “new year, new me” mentality, only to find ourselves in mid-to-late January frustrated by our diminished motivation and mad at ourselves for all the times we didn’t “stick to the plan”?  How many new habits do we give up on after missing one workout, how many diets are blown by one “cheat” meal, only to vow to start again on Monday?

What if we didn’t have to wait until January 1, what if we didn’t have to blow off the rest of the week and start again on Monday?  What if the day of the week or the first of the year didn’t really matter in getting what we want for and from ourselves?   What if we didn’t have to beat ourselves up for every transgression and failed attempt at achieving perfection?  What if change was something that didn’t need a starting line, or a finish line for that matter?  What if we could see change as something gradual that we incorporate into our lives in little ways, giving ourselves high fives and kudos for the little wins along the way without having to berate ourselves into submission?  Wouldn’t that be a game changer?

Deciding to make changes so that we can live in ways that bring us closer to our ideals and goals is wonderful, but we must make sure that we are not berating and hating ourselves into a better idealized version of who we are.  Accepting that lasting change is a long road and that there will be bumps, twists, turns, loopbacks and roadblocks along the way is a much more realistic and self-compassionate way to bring about lasting change.  Seeing each moment as an opportunity to shed unhelpful old habits in order to make a more helpful choice takes the pressure off of these starting lines and deadlines and enables us to celebrate the positive steps we are taking toward change.  It is OK to give ourselves a bit of grace when an old habit wins out in the moment, and then step confidently onward with intention to make the next choice a more helpful one.  If you are struggling with making positive changes in your life, working with a counselor one-on-one can help you discover a more rational approach to lasting change.  Visit me at