We are in the early days of a new cycle of yearly growth. Recently, the northern hemisphere experienced the Winter Solstice, representing the shortest day of the year. Our cycle is moving from a period of diminishing to a new period of growth, and a brand new year is before us. During this time, many embrace, utilize, and flow with the energy of growth by setting new goals for the changes we want to see in our lives. Although we cannot control everything, we can control how we respond to things. Remember that you are responsible for your life, your choices, and are the agent that can bring about positive change this coming year. Every day is an opportunity to begin anew. Below are some recommendations on how to create positive change this coming year.

Reflect and Write Down Goals

Set aside 30-minutes to an hour of dedicated, distraction-free time to think deeply about your desired outcomes. Write them down. You might start with an initial list and then refine over time. Try to define goals that are both achievable and measurable.

An example of a vague goal: "Become more spiritual."

This might be refined and rewritten to be achievable and measurable:

  • Learn more about spirituality by studying...[insert book/class/podcast], commit to spending 30-miutes studying 2-times a week
  • Find and join a spiritual community that shares my beliefs, attend community gatherings
  • Practice mindfulness everyday for at least 1-minute

Allow your goals to evolve over time as you work towards them and be sure to update them as the year progresses.

Align Your Goals with Your Inner Self

Ensure that your goals and the way you want to achieve them align with your inner values and authenticity. You won't have much success if your goals and approach don't align with your core values and who you are as a person. Setting goals that go against your principles will be out of alignment with your true nature. Don't be afraid to expand your horizons, but try to do so in a way that is harmonious with who you are, and who you are striving to become.

Start with Intention

Creating the reality we want to live in always begins with setting our intention. For spiritual, non-religious people this involves taking time apart to set a clear intention in you mind. Identify the things you want to bring about in your life and set a daily intention to act in a way that will create those things. Similarly, for things you want to let go of, dedicate daily time to set the intention of allowing yourself to let go of that which no longer serves you.

For people of religious faith, prayer is the perfect way to set an intention. Whether you pray to your God, Higher Power, Divine Consciousness of the Universe, Universal Being, whatever it might be, prayer is a form of setting your intention, and bringing it to your Higher Power to help manifest.

Visualize Yourself on the Path to Success

One of the most powerful ways to bring about successful change is to regularly visualize what your life would look like, who you would be, if you achieved the goals you set for yourself. There is great power in visualizing the path to success as well. Set aside time to visualize yourself working towards your goals, and what your life looks like having achieved them. Visualization brings the mind and body in alignment with the goal, and significantly reduces the level of effort required to achieve it.

Embrace Discomfort

Growth often comes from stepping out of your comfort zone. Embracing some amount of discomfort will lead to positive change. Perhaps you are trying to let go of bad habits, or start a new healthful routine. Even though you desire change, you are already habituated to your current life routine, and making changes will be uncomfortable. Remember to mentally prepare yourself through visualization and intention to accept that this change may produce discomfort, and allow the discomfort to be there as you adapt to the new ways of living. Eventually, as you become habituated to your new lifestyle changes, you the discomfort of change will dissipate.

Avoid Extremes

We also have a tendency to take an "all or nothing" approach to change. This is the brain's way of trying to simplify the change. For example, if we decide to start having a more active lifestyle, we might start by setting an unrealistic training goal that results in injury, which puts us further back than where we started. When structuring your goals, avoid extremes as these are more likely to result in failure. Instead, focus on the middle path. Remember that big change comes about in small daily activities, and making necessary adjustments when needed. Extremes only promote burnout, injury, and un-wellness, the opposite of what our goals should strive to create in our lives.

Practice Self-Care

Whatever changes you are striving for in your life, remember to develop and practice a self-care routine. A simple self-care routine will have a profound impact on your overall success or failure. Prioritizing the right amounts of sleep, healthy eating, daily meditation or prayer, and physical exercise will supercharge our ability to effect positive change in our lives.

Remember to Forgive Yourself

Understand that setbacks and failures are part of the growth process. Instead of focusing on rigid adherence to success, focus on learning from the experience and trying again. Remember that everyone falls down, the difference is whether or not we pick ourselves back up again. Be open to adjusting your goals as you work towards making changes in your life, and always be compassionate and loving with yourself.

Ultimately, I wish you every success as you work to bring about the changes you want to see in your life this year. By using the above techniques, I hope you will reach the goals you set for yourself.