It's a new year, bringing with it new goals, hopes and resolutions

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019

It's a new year, bringing with it new goals, new hopes, and New Year's resolutions.

Of course, with New Year's resolutions comes pressure for success, which can often be followed by a sense of failure. Working toward new goals can be a challenging process and we can quickly become demoralized when we struggle to overcome challenges that make it hard to achieve our goal.

Sometimes, when we give up on our goal, we can feel like we've failed. But treating success and failure as two entirely different things can be misleading.

In fact, it is an example of a thinking trap our brain falls into called "black and white thinking." Other black and white thoughts may include things like, "You either love me or you hate me," "There's no point in trying if I can't make it perfect," and the classic good guys versus bad guys. This trap can be tricky because it convinces us that things can be judged entirely and sorted accordingly. Friends are kept close; enemies are pushed away. Things that are perfect are highly valued and things that can't be perfect aren't worth our effort. Good guys do great things; bad guys deserve to be punished.

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But then what happens when a friend breaks our trust, perfection becomes flawed, or good guys do bad things? If we don't succeed entirely in our New Year's resolutions does that make us a failure? The issue with black and white thinking is that we live in a world of a million different shades.

Although black and white thinking can seemingly make moving through this world easier, it can lead to errors in judgment. It can also make us overly hard on ourselves, feeling like if we fail or aren't perfect enough, we are worthless and undeserving. Black and white thinking can also fuel depression and anxiety, which makes it all the more important to be able to catch this thinking trap and challenge these types of thoughts.

No success can come without a whole lot of failure trailing behind it. With each failure comes new opportunities and valuable lessons to be learned. Perfection is unachievable and not as highly desired as we are led to believe it is. In fact, in Japanese culture, broken pottery is repaired with gold making the cracks stand out and the broken pot more beautiful than it was before breaking. Another Japanese value of "wabi sabi" centres on the belief that beauty is transient and imperfect.

Standards of success, beauty, and happiness are changing all the time — and so are we. The new year is a perfect time to reflect on all of our successes, failure, strengths and weaknesses, and the way each one makes us human. It's also a good time to look forward and make goals and resolutions about what you want to move toward and to make plans on how to get there. But if you break your resolution or it fades before the year is up, don't sweat it!

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This column was written by counsellor Brooke-Anne Willis and first appeared in the New Hamburg Independent: www.newhamburgindependent.ca


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