Two Secrets for Making 2019 Your Year

“Success is the progressive realization of a worthy goal or ideal.” —Earl Nightingale

What do we do each January 1st? We think about New Year’s Resolutions–hobbies we would like to pick up, physical feats we would like to accomplish, places we would like to travel… Some we achieve, some we abandon, and others we half-attempt and get mediocre results. If we want to make serious changes in our lives, build confidence, and grow as individuals, we need to have a plan. Without a clear endpoint in mind, we are wandering aimlessly. A plan allows us to proactively create our destiny, and our goals serve as the springboard.

Last year I wrote about the ins and outs of setting resolutions. Most of us are familiar with the process of setting goals; if you need a refresher course, check out the references included below.. Having or setting goals is not the hard part, though. The hard part is following through with and reaching our goals. We have all had a goal that went unreached for whatever reason. I want to focus this post on what we can do to stay motivated to reach our goals in 2019.

How can we stay motivated to reach our goals? To quote Zoolander, “What do we do when we fall off the horse? …We get back on!” I have two simple suggestions that will help us pick ourselves up and get back to work WHEN we may fall short of our goals:

  1. TRACK PROCESS, NOT PROGRESS. This is an interesting yet intentional combination of words. Have you ever gotten fixated with the before and after pictures of home renovations or of physical transformations? What these pictures do not show is the vast amount of time and effort that went into achieving those results. We must remember that progress is a process. Growth and improvement takes time! We are growing accustomed to thinking we should have a six pack after a week of clean eating or exercising. The truth is that progress takes much, much longer than we like or expect. Instead of obsessing over results, we need to track how many times we did what we said we were going to do. How many times did we get to the gym? How many times did we bring a healthy lunch to work? How much money have we put into savings? If we keep doing what we said we were going to do–going to the gym, eating better, spending carefully–we will inevitably get closer to where we ultimately want to be. 
  2. PRACTICE SELF-COMPASSION. Beating ourselves up for our mistakes and punishing ourselves for not reaching our goals will nearly always backfire. This promotes shame, which is limiting and uninspiring. When we are too tough on ourselves we actually hinder our ability to perform. Multiple studies (see references below) show that treating ourselves with more kindness is the best way to gain better results. Those who practice self-compassion are more likely to achieve their goals because they realize that mistakes are bound to happen, but that does not mean they should give up. As we implement more self-compassion into our daily walk and talk, we will find greater happiness, confidence, and progress as we reach our goals. (Look out for a post on self-compassion at the end of this month!)

Those who succeed in achieving their dreams always have one common characteristic: They never give up. This persistence is a mindset we can establish from the beginning and nurture throughout the journey of working towards our goals. Yes, we may fall down or fall short, but we cannot allow that to let us lose sight of what we are working towards. When we are tempted to give up on our goals, let’s remember to enjoy the PROCESS, and to practice a little more self-compassion. Just remember that every day is a great day to try again. Let 2019 be your year!

Something I love about the New Year is that it gives us courage to change. New Year’s Resolutions are revitalizing and we often find a great deal of motivation to do the hard things we may have been putting off.  If current addiction issues, unresolved trauma, or a strained relationship is not allowing you to make the changes you want to make, please do not hesitate to contact me today with questions and/or schedule a session with me. I absolutely love what I do, and have years of experience as a trained, qualified therapist. Please come see me this year and allow me to help you make 2019 your year!

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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Measuring Your Success

Measuring Your Success - Cluff Counseling, Lewisville Marriage & Family Therapist - TypeLegendary basketball coach, John Wooden, says success is, “…peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” Are you doing your best to reach your 2018 resolutions?

As April approaches (and with it my birthday!), I have been thinking about my goals for the year and how I am doing with them. How are your resolutions going? Do you remember what they are? Did you write them down to begin with? Maybe you have a list displayed on your bathroom mirror, and you are actively thinking about daily steps you can make to reach your lofty goals. Or maybe you fall into that ⅓ group who do not work on resolutions after the first month of the year. Either way, I am here to give encouragement, and provide some tips on how you can measure your progress.

Life is busy. We get so caught up in the daily grind of simple survival that we may overlook seemingly extraneous things–like wanting to pick up a paintbrush or get into an exercise regimen. How can we stay motivated to learn the skills we want to learn, accomplish what we want to accomplish, and ultimately become who we want to be? The answer is simple:

Baby steps each and every day.

I want this blog post to inspire/motivate/rekindle your desire to grow and improve this year. You set your resolutions for a reason! With your own persistence, consistency, and organization you can accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Let’s get started.

First, take a look at your resolutions. Yes, I list this as an actual step because many people have intangible goals floating around in their brain space. You must write them down! You need to be able to see your goals; there is something about the action of writing them out that makes you more accountable to yourself, solidifies your desire to learn new things, and helps you remember your goals (muscle memory, maybe?). So step one, if you have not already done so, write your goals down.

Next, break down goals into measurable steps. “Learn to play the guitar” is a wonderful goal in and of itself, but it is very broad and difficult to quantify. How will you know if you have mastered or even “learned” the guitar? I would like to introduce a simple method that will help you break goals down to actionable steps and give you baby steps for each and every day. This step is perhaps the most important phase of goal setting, for this is where you can set yourself up for success!

  • VISION. Begin with your overarching goal. Let’s say that “learn the guitar” is your vision.
  • GOALS. How will you accomplish your vision? (Notice that the following can all be checked off yes or no; they are quantifiable steps that are easy to measure!)
      • Have formal guitar lessons weekly from a qualified teacher or musician
      • Practice the guitar for at least 15 minutes daily
      • Master one song a month
      • Perform Christmas song at family Christmas party
  • ACTIONS. Now take each of your goals and break them down into smaller steps with set time frames to accomplish each by. (Yes, this takes time and organization. But this is truly what enables you to reach your goals!)
      • Have formal guitar lessons weekly from a qualified teacher or musician
        • Research local music schools; find pricing options (by end of work week)
        • Call Dad’s friend and ask about his rates + availability (Wednesday @ 7 p.m.)
        • Find, clean and tune Dad’s guitar (before first lesson)
      • Practice the guitar for at least 15 minutes daily
        • Nightly after dinner, 6:30-6:45 p.m.
      • Master one song a month (if we are just now redefining or re-dedicating ourselves to goals, start with April)
        • April: “Leaving on a Jet Plane” (Key Signature G)
        • May: “With or Without You” (Key D)
        • June: “Brown Eyed Girl” (Key G)
        • July: “Silent Night” (Key G)
      • Perform Christmas song at family Christmas party
        • Practice basic key signatures monthly
        • Begin practicing “Silent Night” in July
        • Perform for a friend or small audience prior to family party in December
  • ACCOUNTABILITY. Who will you be accountable to? If you have a roommate, partner, sibling, parent, friend or coworker you are close to, consider telling him/her about your goal. Ask him/her to occasionally (or frequently–whatever will help you most) ask you about your progress. Often, knowing someone else knows about your goal helps motivate you to keep going when you are tired, busy, or discouraged. In fact, partner up–play guitar together or hit that yoga class with a friend!

Lastly, REGULARLY review your resolutions. Set a time to remind yourself of your goals. I have long preferred to do this early each Monday–after my morning rituals (like exercising, eating, and getting ready for the day) and before beginning my professional/scholastic duties. Having a set time to go over your goals makes them more prominent in your mind, schedule, and priorities, and helps you to achieve ultimately them. Plus, if you fall off the horse one week, you can reevaluate how to get back in the saddle. If you find your goals to be too easy or too demanding, you can adjust them as necessary. Having a regular check-in with yourself will keep you progressing.

Winston Churchill once said that success is being relentless. If you want to be successful, be relentless in your pursuit to achieve your goals and to become the best version of yourself. Only you know if you are exerting your best effort to reach those goal or not; are you happy with your progress? Is there room for improvement? If you are not on track to reach your goals right now, sit down, write your goals out, and divide each into quantifiable, actionable steps. I can assure you that this is one surefire way to both measure your success and achieve your dreams. And, as always, I am here to help however I can. Contact me or schedule a session today.

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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#RelationshipGoals

Relationship Goals - Cluff Counseling - Lewisville TherapistDid you know that people who set goals are ten times more likely to succeed than those who do not? I know you want your relationship to make it, so let’s talk about goals you can set as a couple that will improve your relationship in 2018!

While the new year can be a great time to kick-start personal resolutions and habits, embarking on resolutions with a partner can also be a wise move.  Two weeks ago, I posted on my blog about New Year’s Resolutions and the power behind mindfully setting well-rounded goals to help you improve in all aspects of your life. This week I want to focus on applying that logic exclusively to relationships.

Do you and your partner set resolutions or goals for your relationship? This might include things you both need to improve, leave behind, or want to learn–like arguing less, listening more, or learning your salmon grilling techniques. Many of my clients only set individual goals, and not couple goals for things they would like to achieve as a unit. The following are nine simple suggestions that you can personalize and include in your 2018 couple resolutions:

  • Do stuff together. Yes, this sounds obvious, but often couples slip into monotony that leads to lack of connection. So my advice is to do things together–it can be simple things like paying the bills, cleaning your house, or running errands…just do it together. I also recommend doing meaningful things together–like worshipping, learning a new skill, participating in service, or visiting travel destinations. And do not forget to have fun together–be goofy, joke around, and remember that laughing together does wonders for a relationship.
  • Be present with each other. I understand that between school, work, kids, etc, your schedules appear full and you do not have much time to spare. Make whatever time you do have together COUNT. Make a goal to stop scrolling so much in your partner’s presence; put your phones down, and focus on each other! Take technology breaks and spend undistracted time with each other. When you and your partner are together, make sure ALL of you is there.
  • Do not turn a molehill into a mountain. This year resolve to not let little upsets grow into big ones. Remember that every conflict in your relationship is not personal.
  • Be respectful, even when you are upset. Although it can be easy to flare up in the face of contention and say angry things to your partner, it is harder to come back and apologize. Instead, try the Time Out technique and say, “I love you and because I love you, I don’t want to say or do anything that would hurt you or our relationship and so I need some time to calm down before I can continue this conversation.” Imagine what a difference this could make!
  • Speak up about what you want! Your partner is not a mindreader. He or she cannot magically know what you want or need. Use your words and tell him or her what you want–whether it is where you want to eat out, what is going on in bed, or how you communicate throughout the day. Set your partner up for success by telling him or her what you want so it can be delivered.
  • Speak your partner’s love language. Many of you are familiar with love languages (if not, click here to read more). To boil it down, each of us has a primary love language: acts of service, words of affirmation, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Both you and your partner receive love through one of those primary love languages. It is your job to know what is most meaningful to your partner. The majority of my clients often feel disconnected and butt heads because each partner is speaking with his or her own preferred love language, rather than how what his/her partner receives love.
  • Ask your partner how (not if) you can help. Ana Aluisy, a couples therapist from Florida, says that simply being direct and asking your partner how you can help improves your connection and intimacy immensely. Aluisy says, “Many times we place immense amounts of efforts into being supportive towards our partner, but they may not notice. Knowing specifically how they need us to be there for them is key.”
  • Catch your partner doing good. More often than not, we overlook what our partner does well and only see that he/she loaded the dishwasher wrong. We must intentionally look for the good and express it often to cultivate a loving attitude within the relationship. Here is a simple exercise that I recommend to my couples: over the next seven days, catch your partner doing good and tell them what you see. At the end of the week, reflect on how you feel about your partner. You will be surprised how such a simple thing can make a big difference in your view of your partner.
  • Have regularly scheduled check-ins. Jeffrey Sumber, Psychotherapist and Author says. “I encourage couples to check in with each other on a regular basis, typically weekly. It’s not only an opportunity to see whether things are going amazingly or if someone’s struggling, but it’s also an opportunity to offer appreciation for one another on a regular basis and express what you each need.” Whether you have a nightly, weekly, or monthly “check-in,” it is important to have a time you both plan on discussing your relationship.

Making relationship resolutions in and of itself shows you are prioritizing the relationship. Couples benefit from constantly reevaluating their relationships and finding ways to strengthen them. Setting couple New Year’s resolutions can be a great way to increase your connection, strengthen your relationship, and improve your overall relationship satisfaction.

The above resolutions are just a few examples of goals you can choose for your relationship. I encourage you to pick 2 or 3, from the list or on your own, that you would like to focus on this year and discuss with your partner how you two will implement them in your relationship. If you feel like you need some assistance creating measurable or implementable couple goals, please feel free to contact me or schedule a session. Let 2018 be the best year so far in your relationship!

Melissa Cluff is a licensed marriage and family therapist based in Lewisville, Texas, personally seeing clients in the North Dallas area.

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