As the year draws to an end, you see messages regarding reminiscing the year that was, counting blessings and looking back fondly on the precious memories created. Quite naturally, it prompts you to look back as well. Instead of feeling a warm glow, it is quite possible to find yourself grimacing about the mistakes and painful memories of the year that’s gone by! Don’t worry; it’s not just you. Everybody has done things they wish they could have done differently. Instead of letting this get you down, look ahead. Every ending is a pathway to a fresh start. Each new year is an opportunity to make changes, set new goals and begin afresh.
The idea of a fresh start can seem daunting, even overwhelming. It doesn’t need to be this way. Whether you want to move on from a stagnant state (away from toxic habits or relationships) or find yourself at an abrupt end (divorce or bereavement or losing a job) or are faced with a big change (moving to a new place or starting a new course) – you are not alone. Starting over or making new beginnings is very much a part of everyone’s life. Everyone needs a fresh start once in a while – sometimes more often than we would like! Here are a few pointers to help you not just in getting started with your fresh start, but making sure you follow through!
#1 Make a plan
Before you embark on the journey to change, identify what is it that you want to change. At the same time, think of what would you not want to change, or what do you hope stays the same. This will give you perspective on the area you need to work on. Picture an outcome you want to work towards. For instance, if you want to work towards achieving a healthier work-life balance, describe what feels like the right kind of balance to you. It might help to write this down, make an image/ collage or even record a voice note – to serve as a reminder for you. Try to keep it simple and flexible. Create a broad picture of the changes you wish to see and be open to changing the plan if needed.
#2 One step at a time
Now that you have put a finger on what you want to work on, it’s time to start thinking about how you will get there. Break down your plan into simpler steps. If your goal is to be able to speak confidently in front of an audience, start small. For instance, you might want to begin by asking questions in an informal group setting around people you are comfortable with. Eventually, you might try to do this during a team meeting at work. Subsequent steps would lead to taking the initiative to present in front of a group. Any change you envision will not happen in an instant. Be realistic in your expectations. Small successes are more likely to keep you motivated. Don’t pin your hopes on a grand end result, rather take one step at a time, working towards smaller, achievable goals.
#3 Step out of your comfort zone
Imagine your comfort zone – not as a physical space – but a set of patterns that form your routine way of thinking and behaving. The idea of stepping out of your comfort zone is stressful, simply because you are stepping away from the familiar, known patterns that you have grown accustomed to. However, you can’t change if you keep doing the same things or do things the same way. Your goal will require you to make changes to existing habits. Be prepared to try new ways and breaking free of current patterns. For example, if you are looking at building a healthier lifestyle, you will have to revise your eating habits, the amount of physical activity you perform, how much sleep you get and so on. Similarly, if you decide to work on your relationship with a significant other, you might need to change the way you interact with them or the amount of time spent together or how chores are divided between the two. Just remind yourself that if you want something you have never had, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.
#4 Find your fit
There isn’t one right way of getting to your goal. What works for one person, may not give the same results for another. Keep trying different techniques and patterns till you find one that works best for you. Don’t compare yourself with others and get disheartened. Try different ways. See what fits you best. Some people feel more productive when they have a definite deadline while others are unable to function fully due to the stress. Some find it useful to talk to people in the same field or working towards similar goals. Some prefer to work alone. Be flexible; try out various approaches and techniques instead of giving up.
#5 Keep it real
If there is one certainty in life, that is: you will make mistakes. It is ok. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out just the way you imagined. And don’t be afraid of failure. In hindsight, every failure serves as learning. So learn from your mistakes and keep working towards your goal. Change takes time and sustained effort. Things are not magically going to fall into place. Be prepared to put in the hard work. If after just a few days of eating healthy and exercising you find yourself turning to junk food again, don’t take this as an end of your progress. No failure is absolute unless you stop making an effort to improve.
It’s helpful to keep in mind that life rarely follows a linear path. So you might have or need a fresh start more than once. Acknowledging that a new beginning could be one of many, eases the pressure to succeed and helps you to strive for the best.
There might be times when despite your best efforts, you don’t seem to be making any progress. Sometimes, the hurdles are bigger than you imagined and if you are feeling stuck even after trying really hard, know that there are resources available to help you make the change. Identify the resources around you – these could be your friends or family members, skill building courses, support groups addressing your specific concerns, counselors and so on. A good counsellor will be able to help you in identifying your own strengths and using these to overcome challenges. Speaking in a safe, confidential environment is especially beneficial when grappling with emotionally laden situations.
Every person, their life – along with its challenges – and the way they cope, is unique. I hope that reading this has helped you gain some clarity about making a fresh start this coming year, and wish you success in achieving your goals!