At this time of the year many of us feel compelled to make changes in our lives. Usually those resolutions revolve around the desire to look better physically -- almost always the hope to lose weight or build more muscle or go to the gym more frequently (or start going). Other resolutions may focus on achieving more life successes such as a new job or career move or finding a more productive means to earn money.
On a more emotional level, some will resolve to make changes toward helping themselves feel more spiritually grounded or emotionally centered. But let us be perfectly honest, many of us are also really looking for that special love to complement our lives and put that big smile back on our face.
In order to make those New Year’s resolutions work, we need to be perfectly honest about our tendency to self-sabotage those resolutions by overloading our plate with too many expectations and not seriously considering the steps necessary to more efficiently achieve their goals.
Dike Dummond, in the Huffington Post, strongly recommends creating a good action plan: "Write down the steps to reach your goal. I f you are intimidated by any one step... chuck it down into smaller ’bites’ until you are more comfortable."
An example of such smaller steps toward feeling better both physically and mentally may be to lose five pounds rather than fifteen pounds or taking a yoga class instead of paying for an expensive gym membership. Perhaps planning an evening with friends one day a week either to the movies or dinner may help to get you away from your computer and closer to meeting someone special.
Success from those smaller steps may just lead to taking the next step toward achieving those larger goals of that more sculpted physique, more peace of mind, or a date.
As a professional therapist, I know that we as gay men tend to feel the need for perfection in our lives as a way of elevating ourselves from that older feeling of alienation from society as a result of our sexual orientation which many still view as a choice. Therefore, we tend to be harder on ourselves for not achieving self-actualized goals since many of these goals are often based on fear of not succeeding in life compared to our heterosexual counterparts.
Such fears may include the fear of not finding a loving partner or succeeding in chosen career path. Both successes many believe would elevate our status in the world, especially when those choices often don’t include raising a family of our own as is more expected in the wider world. In addition, for many of us -- straight or gay --New Year’s resolutions are coming on the heels of the holiday season when we were either with family and friends celebrating holiday festivities or alone.
Either holiday situation presents situations often fraught with tension and self-recrimination, whereupon those distasteful holiday experiences prompt us to feel less than satisfied with our present life circumstance, which then lead us to make those New Year resolutions.
What’s most important is to remember that any resolution to make changes in our lives has to be fueled by a desire to improve ourselves based on self-love, not self-recrimination. Only then can we truly be patient with ourselves and not beat ourselves up if that resolution doesn’t come true in the time frame we have set for ourselves.
To succeed more effectively in those resolutions, first follow that action plan with small steps that are easier to achieve. And do them in conjunction with reaching out to others for support when you find yourself faltering in your plans. Try not to make any changes without letting others know your plan and check in with them weekly to let them help you stay on track and provide loving encouragement.
So good luck in your plan. In the words of Benjamin Franklin, "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each year find you a better man."
Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.