What if 2023 could truly be different? As 2022 winds down, I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
I’ve found that my typical approach of starting the new year with a long list of goals usually turns out to be counterproductive. By the end of January, I’m already “behind,” so I tell myself that I should just abandon everything. I’m going to change up my New Year’s resolutions (for SLPs) this year, and I invite you to join me!
The Science of Goals
As SLPs, we have a complicated relationship with goals. We spend so much time writing, defending, and monitoring them; it’s no wonder that setting our own personal goals can feel fraught!
At work, we tend to set what researchers call “subordinate” goals. These are concrete, measurable, and typically short-term. Subordinate goals are related to SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals, which are likely familiar to many of us. A non-work example of this type of goal would be “Do 30 minutes of yoga, three times a week, for the next three months.”
“Superordinate” goals are more abstract and long term—for example, “Reduce anxiety” or “Prioritize friendships.”
Historically, research has focused on the benefits of subordinate goals, and when it comes to making a focused change, subordinate is the way to go! However, most of us probably have more expansive goals as well.
That’s why it’s so motivating to see new research coming out that found benefits from using a mix of subordinate and superordinate goals—especially when it comes to achieving truly life-changing dreams.
Also, as the researchers point out, just because a superordinate goal is abstract, it’s not necessarily vague. We can make our goals big and measurable.
I’m going to use this framework of setting subordinate AND superordinate goals for 2023, and I hope you’ll join me on the adventure!
Adding and Taking Away
Another change for my 2023 New Year’s resolutions is that I’m adding more of what I want in my life, and releasing pursuits that don’t serve me and my community. I’ve picked two things I plan to start doing, and three things that I plan to stop doing.
Start Doing: Have Self-compassion
SLPs are great at many things! Unfortunately, self-compassion isn’t always one of them—so I’ll be focusing on bringing more of it into my life.
Kristin Neff is a pioneering self-compassion researcher, and she defines self-compassion as having three components:
- Kindness toward ourselves (being gentle, even when we make mistakes)
- Recognizing our common humanity (everyone suffers, and everyone is imperfect)
- Mindfulness (awareness of our self-talk, and not judging ourselves for difficulties)
When life is hard, I’ll ask myself the question, “How can I care for myself right now?”—and then follow through with purposeful actions.
Start Doing: Have More FUN!
In addition to making 2023 the year of self-compassion, I also plan to make it the year of fun! With everything we all have going on, it’s easy to make fun a low priority, but science journalist Catherine Price has convinced me that this is the wrong approach.
In her recent TED Talk, Catherine pointed out that fun isn’t frivolous. Instead, it’s powerful, meaningful, and vital for our health and wellbeing. According to her definition, fun is not about a specific activity; it’s a feeling that involves:
- Playfulness (being lighthearted and pursuing enjoyment)
- Connection (a meaningful shared experience)
- Flow (a deep sense of being in the moment, first described by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi)
Catherine recommends reflecting and identifying past experiences that evoked the three elements of true fun. I plan to follow her advice, and as I figure out my favorite ways to have fun, I’ll expand their presence in my life.
What role does fun play for you? How do you cultivate fun? Let me know in the comments!
Stop Doing: Going at it Alone
I’m excited to focus on bringing more self-compassion and fun into my life next year—and I might be even more excited about saying “See you later” to pursuits I don’t need in my life.
The first thing that I want to stop doing in 2023 is going at it alone. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up restorative moments of solitude! Rather, it’s about my willingness to ask for help when I need it, and to pursue growth within the context of community. In practice, this could look like dividing up household tasks in a new way, or forming a supportive accountability group with friends and colleagues who have similar goals.
Stop Doing: Letting Others Prioritize my Life
In 2023, I also plan to cut down on activities that don’t coincide with what I value most in life. Of course, this can be tricky, because—particularly in a work setting—there will always be some rote tasks that just have to get done, whether we value them or not. That’s why it’s even more important to be intentional about how we spend the time that we have more control over.
In Greg McKeown’s excellent book Essentialism, he argues that “if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.” That definitely hit home for me!
Stop Doing: Pursuing Perfection
In addition to cutting out non-essential tasks and my “lone wolf” mentality, I also hope to stop chasing after perfection.
I don’t know what it is about the field of speech-language pathology, but it seems to draw a lot of perfectionists! I imagine that the combination of scientific analysis + compassionate caregiving attracts those of us who want to do well at everything all the time.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do well, of course! But research has found that perfectionism is connected with depressive symptoms, and one research team even went so far as to call perfectionism a significant public health concern.
Perfectionism can’t be eradicated overnight, but I hope to take baby steps towards loosening its grip. Flipping through a holiday catalog the other day, I saw a piece of artwork that said “Who cares? Try again!” and I definitely want to bring some of that forgiving, flexible energy into 2023.
How about you? What will you be starting and stopping in the year to come? Please let me know!
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