Making a New Year's resolution? Surrender the outcome
Make goals, and then let them go.
Happy New Year! Are you making any resolutions? This can be a dicey topic for people who live with a mental illness. We have to know ourselves and what we're capable of, and recognize that the symptoms of our illnesses might intervene.
For instance: I'd love to resolve that I'll hit the gym twice a week in 2023. But I know from past experience that this goal isn't a good fit right now. My mood fluctuates, and I'll end up having to push myself extra hard to stay on track. While a little grit and determination can be healthy, it can also be destabilizing and send me into a depressive tailspin. The better way for me to approach physical fitness is to just do what I can. I try to ride my bike a couple times a week and take walks around the neighborhood while listening to an audiobook — two activities I enjoy.
The good news is that people are prioritizing their mental health as part of their 2023 goals, just as they did for 2022. So how should people experiencing mental illness treat the sacred art of New Year's goal-setting? NAMI has some suggestions for people with depression. The UK's Mental Health Foundation advises setting themes. Scientific American suggests shedding an unfulfilled life goal.
Self-help guru Melody Beattie, whose book on codependency was treated like gospel when I was in recovery, has this to say about New Year's goals:
Goals give us direction. They put a powerful force into play on a universal, conscious, and subconscious level.
She also says:
Write it down. Take a piece of paper, a few hours of your time, and write it all down — as an affirmation of you, your life, and your ability to choose. Then let it go.
"Then let it go," she says. That phrase is an essential part of the process.
A similar phrase I often heard in recovery was "surrender the outcome." I took this to mean that it's okay to set goals, so long as we let go of expectations for how things might turn out.
My New Year’s resolution was to start a newsletter about mental health. I did it! My next resolution is to keep posting here throughout the year. It would be great if the newsletter is successful and reaches a lot of people who find it useful, but that's an outcome I will surrender for now.
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