Reviving Hope

Written by Meaghan Heighway, LMHC-P

“We spend January first walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives … not looking for flaws, but for potential.” (Ellen Goodman)

If you’re like me, you look toward the New Year with a sense of ambiguity: you want to hope, but you’re kind of afraid to. We carry the same things that we ended the previous year with – less-than-perfect relationships, jobs that at times elate and exasperate us, and probably an extra pound or two from all the holiday festivities. We want to hope – to believe that this is the year we’re going to tie the knot, start our own business, and lose those last stubborn inches. I have a secret and an acronym to share that I think can help revive hope.

Like thousands of other Americans, this year you may be staring down at your scale and feel rather lightheaded when confronted with the number beneath your feet. I’m going to share a secret that changed my life: for a lot of things, there is no one way that will always work – but if we try putting many things together, we may find what we’ve been searching for. We feel full of hope when we hear about the newest fad diet – the only-water-and-vitamins-for-a-week wonder cure that has people dripping off the weight in just days. But the problem with these diets is that most don’t work in real life, and so they are difficult to begin and even harder to maintain. So as you are contemplating another looming goal of losing weight this year, try being S.M.A.R.T about it.

The S.M.A.R.T way of goal setting has been around for a while, and most sources agree that it stands for: Simple, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time-framed. Using weight loss as our goal, let’s break it down.

Simple: If you’ve been trying to lose weight for a while, you may feel even more pressured to achieve your goal this year. Resist the temptation to buy into the fad diets or into complex plans – anxiety over achieving the goal can make it more difficult for us to be realistic, which can deflate our hope. Keeping it simple means starting small, which leads to…

Measurable: If you’ve never exercised, or your relationship with exercise has been sporadic, consider that building up your exposure is beneficial. For some people, joining a gym is the motivation they need to weave exercise into their lives. For others, gym membership becomes a wallet drain, and they would be better off to invest in some materials they can use from home. There are a plethora of recommendations about exercise, and it can be overwhelming, so just try one new thing to start. Most important: just because one technique did not work, does not mean another won’t. Be daring, and keep exploring until you find your niche. The same goes for food – extremes often lead to frustration. Keep it simple, along with a measurable (buildable) goal, such as “lose five pounds in five months.” If you surpass yourself, wonderful – but start small, and start with a measurable (vs. grandiose) goal, which builds up hope.

Action-oriented: This means you are setting a goal and breaking it down into action steps. The more concrete you are about the step, the more likely you will be able to achieve it, which expands your hope. For example: Monday – buy some five pound weights at Wal-Mart. Join a support group that focuses on weight loss. Tuesday – do five reps of ten, using a five pound weight in each hand. Research some new healthy recipes on the web. Wednesday – attend your support group that focuses on weight loss. Buy the ingredients necessary to make one new healthy recipe this week. Thursday – do five reps of ten, using a five pound weight in each hand. Make the new healthy recipe you found and serve it. Friday – do any homework assigned by your support group. Research another new recipe. Research a new weight lifting technique to try.

Realistic: Assess your life and daily needs. How are you going to weave this goal into your already busy world, while keeping in mind that you will have times when you slip up? For example, if you know that when you come home at 9 PM after a full day, you will reach for the chips… try not keeping them in the house. The more you know yourself, the more realistic you can be about your goal, and this fuels inner hope.

Time-framed: Using a time frame can give us a sense of hope, because it helps us realize that this isn’t going to go on forever, without any change. If we view things as never-ending, it is easy to feel defeated, because there is no finish line in sight. Deciding that we will try a new support group for a month, for example, can give us an added boost of confidence when we try it. If it doesn’t resonate with us, we can quit and try something different – it is within our power to choose.

Most importantly, be deliberate about seeing the potential in yourself – you can change, you can achieve your goals, and it is not beyond you!


Disclaimer: The information contained in this blog is intended to educate, inform and entertain. This does not represent psychotherapy, therapeutic assessment, or any other form of therapeutic intervention. This should not be used as a substitute for consultation and treatment with a licensed mental health professional. If you have questions related to the material contained in this site please contact CCM or a licensed mental health professional of your choice.

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