Here are some thoughts on how to take stock and spring forward.
1) Consider the present, not the past.
Sometimes people get so caught up in their regrets that they’re not able to figure out what needs to happen, right now.
While it can be helpful to think about how you got where you are, it’s much more helpful to start with where you are. As in, what do you like about your life? What do you dislike?
2) Build on the strengths; deemphasize the weaknesses.
This might sound obvious, but it’s actually difficult to do in practice. And often, people don’t try to do it. They allow themselves to get waylaid by thoughts about what isn’t working; they drown in a sense of helplessness and hopelessness.
Strengths can be your support network; it can be qualities you like in yourself (compassion, resilience, etc.) These are all things you can build on.
3) If you’re feeling stuck, think about your thoughts.
What I mean is, you might be stuck in a negative thought loop. You’re psyching yourself out.
You don’t have to buy into every thought you have. In fact, happier, more productive people don’t. They let certain thoughts roll on by, and they linger on the ones that are most useful.
This involves recognizing that your thoughts are not truth; they are not reality. They are one way of approaching reality, and you can choose which thoughts get your attention.
Recognizing that thoughts are open to change can be very empowering.
4) Be solution-focused.
Often, we get mired in problem talk. There’s a whole branch of therapy called solution-focused therapy that is about becoming aware of what you’re already doing right, and nurturing that. Then cross-reference and apply it to other areas of your life.
Solution talk would involve questions like, “What’s one small step I could take today?” Keep it small. Success begets success.
Don’t set large goals that are unreachable.
5) Create action plans, and follow through on them.
Action plans involve breaking goals down into the kind of small steps I was describing above. They might involve consulting friends, websites, or community agencies. Research can be your friend. Knowledge really is power.
If you’re having trouble with follow through, it could mean the steps are too large, or that the goal is actually the wrong one. It’s what you think you should want, not what you actually want. So your motivation isn’t really there.
In that case, go back to Step 1. Doing a thorough self-inventory is always a great place to start. It might help to do it with a friend, or a professional, like a therapist.
But the most important lesson here? Do.