Are You Repeating Your Past?

So it has been a month since you set your most recent New Year’s Resolution.  What was it for?  Was it the same as your goal from last year?  What about the year before?  So many times we set goals that are the same or very similar year after year.  Why do we do this?  Typically the response that I get from this question is something along the lines of, “I still want the same things that I did last year!” or the same things they have wanted for the past several years.  So if we have strived for the same goals for the past several years, what has gotten in the way of us being able to achieve this goal?  Did you generate an answer for this question?  If not, I think you need to go back and think harder about the potential “answers” to this question.  If we don’t know what got in the way of us accomplishing our goals, how can we do something different this time?  When I ask my clients to identify things that may have come between them and their goals, many times they provide me with a vague, “I guess I didn’t try hard enough” response.  I don’t know about you, but when I make a commitment to myself to obtain a goal I have set, I work pretty darn hard to try to reach this goal!  So try again.  What are some of the things that prevented you from eating healthy, going to the gym, saving more money, or beginning a new career?  The second most common answer to this question that I hear is, “I didn’t have enough time”.  Although I completely agree that there may not be enough hours in a day, it is not something that is likely ever going to change!  In addition, I believe that there are much bigger reasons for our lack of success.

The majority of the individuals who respond to this question with, “not enough time” may not be aware of what some of the more difficult answers would be.  So, what ideas have you come up with?  For many of us it is some kind of anxiety related to our goal.  Anxiety?  Worry?  Scared?  Maybe those aren’t the words that come into your mind when you are thinking about the things that have gotten in your way in the past.  But, does one of them resonate even a little bit?  Anxiety is one of the most common difficulties that individuals face throughout our country.  And yes, in small amounts anxiety can be helpful for us.  If we know we have a presentation for work on Monday, the anxiety that we feel about preparing for this presentation can definitely help to motivate us to get it done.  However, having significant amounts of anxiety can actually cause us to “freeze”.  Freezing occurs when we become so overwhelmed by our worries that it can make it almost impossible for us to focus on the goal at hand and accomplish tasks. 

At this point you may be able to recognize that some of what might be getting in your way of accomplishing your goals is your anxiety about the “what ifs”.  “What ifs” can range from everything such as, “What if I try as hard as I can and still don’t accomplish my goals?” to “What if I work really hard and I obtain my goals and I’m still not satisfied or it’s still not good enough?”.  Maybe a worry that you have is about how your friends, colleagues, families, or partner may feel towards you if you were able to accomplish the goal you had set. 

So the next time you find yourself setting a previously set goal, think about what may have contributed to not being able to achieve that goal in the past.  I believe that the only way to achieve our goals is to recognize what may (or has) gotten in the way of us obtaining this goal.  Once this question has been answered, we can begin problem solving about how best to address these things.  I also encourage my clients to look at what / how they handled the situation.  Yes, I understand that you may not have been able to achieve this goal last year because of situations that occurred that were beyond your control.  Don’t beat yourself up for having not met your prior goals.  This does not solve anything and will likely lead to more anxiety/depression which will not help us to move forward.  So, be gentle with yourself, identify what has gotten in the way of you achieving your goals in the past, figure out ways to address these things, and do something different in 2013!


Trusted Therapy, Inc
Tonya McFarland, PsyD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
1030 Johnson Rd, Suite #280
Golden, CO  80401