December 30, 2020


Destination and New Year 
By: Jacqueline Barish, M.Ed.


It is to no surprise that this year has brought about many unexpected challenges. Whether we experienced new personal, relational, or societal obstacles, it is fair to say that 2020 was no walk in the park. As the New Year approaches, many of us are ready for change; looking to press the “restart” button and enter the new year filled with hope, optimism, and positivity!

When new opportunities arise, like the beginning of the New Year, it is a great time to ask ourselves the question “where do I go from here?” Taking the time to idealize your future is a great way to form destinations, otherwise known as long-term goals. Is there a new career path that is calling your name? Are you looking to form a new romantic relationship?  I ask you the question: What do you want to aspire to not only in 2021, but for the rest of your life?

Acknowledging Gratitude



Before we ring in the New Year and look towards our destinations, I invite you to look back on this year with an open and compassionate mind. Although it may be easy to focus our attention to the challenges 2020 had to offer, it is also important to acknowledge the opportunities and positive moments throughout this past year. Maybe you were given the chance to spend time with family that you may have not had the opportunity to if quarantine didn’t happen. Or maybe you started up a new hobby that you have always wanted to try. Maybe it was taking care of yourself each and every day and prioritizing mental health that got you to this point. Whatever it may be, take this moment to recognize gratitude and what lessons you have personally learned this year that you can implement going into 2021.

If you are having difficulty recognizing gratitude over this past year, here are some exercises to try to help you out!

Think of all the people in your life, whether it be friends, family, coworkers, etc., who have supported you throughout this year. Write a gratitude letter to one of these individuals and answer the question: why are you grateful for them? If you would like, you can share your letter with the individual so they know how thankful you are for their presence in your life!

1. Write a Gratitude Letter

Think of all the people in your life, whether it be friends, family, coworkers, etc., who have supported you throughout this year. Write a gratitude letter to one of these individuals and answer the question: why are you grateful for them? If you would like, you can share your letter with the individual so they know how thankful you are for their presence in your life!

2. Write Down Three Good Things

At the end of each day for the next week, write down three things that went well throughout each day. It can be as small (ex: going for a walk) or as big (ex: getting a promotion) as you would like! After you finished creating your list for the day, think about how you felt after each event and why did the good things happen that day? This will allow for self-compassion and gratitude to enter your life on a daily basis.

3. Create a Gratitude Tree

If you are a more creative individual, try giving a gratitude tree a try! Cut out the shape of a large tree and on each branch of the tree, write down something you are grateful for. After a while, you will see your tree blooming with grateful thoughts to fill your home.

Envision Your Destination



In addition to recognizing gratitude and acknowledging lessons learned in 2020, we now have the opportunity to look forward to the future and create new goals for us as we head into a new year. It is now time to look ahead and create new destinations. When thinking about your overall destination, it might be easier to break it down into three life pathways (personal, relational, and professional) in order to give you more clarity in what you would like to envision yourself achieving in your future. I know what you might be thinking, this seems like an overwhelming and anxiety-proving task…and that is totally okay! The beauty of destinations is that it can always change. We have the power to modify our goals depending on how we decide to live our lives and the choices we make along the way. It is also encouraged to collaborate with your therapist to visualize your ideal long term goals as well as recognize the steps you are already making towards your destinations. Dream big here…nothing is unattainable!

To help successfully reach your destination, we want to create landmarks, or short-term goals, to make the process of getting to your final destination easier and more attainable. Think of landmarks as the stepping stones to get to the pinnacle of your destination. With each step, that is one step closer to reaching your ideal destination while creating positive change in your life in the meantime!

Now that we have our destination and landmarks, it is valuable to think about what we are ALREADY doing to make progress towards our goals and what resources we have at our disposal to help us create positive change! Take a look back at your gratitude exercise and see if there are some resources that can be implemented in the new year. You might just notice that you already have tools in your toolbox to start making strides towards your destination.

Effective Goal Setting



When we create new goals, or possibly new year’s resolutions, we hope to obtain something within the span of the new year. But many people succumb to the pitfalls of unsuccessful goal setting, which include setting too big of goals, having little accountability, and not personally being connected to the goals to begin with. However, with effective goal-setting techniques, you can equip yourself to overcome potential goal-setting challenges and help set you up for the greatest chance of success!

One way to help equip you to come up with effective goal-setting is to remember the acronym SMARTY! This will help you not only formulate landmarks, but will also help to create clear and tangible goals to strive for!

S: Specific (What do you want to accomplish)
M: Measurable (How will you measure your goal)
A: Adjustable (Can I modify this goal if necessary)
R: Realistic (Is this goal realistically attainable)
T: Timely (When will this goal be accomplished)
Y: You (Is this goal important to me)

Does your landmark follow the steps of SMARTY? If you can answer each of the questions above, then you are on your way to creating landmarks and have just made steps towards achieving your destination!

As time goes on, it can be very easy to lose sight of what your final goals are due to daily life distractions and obstacles. So it is crucial to continuously check in on your destinations and landmarks. A way to monitor your success is to recognize how you are making steps towards your goal along the way. This can be practiced personally through mindful awareness, or receiving validation from the supports in your life! Was there a choice that got you one step closer to your destination? Did you equip yourself with a new skill that can help you achieve your landmark? Allow your life map to be a living and breathing document, constantly changing with each and every moment that passes. And remember, it is okay (and encouraged) to ask for help! Batman did not save Gotham without Robin. Harry Potter reached his destinations due to the help of Hermoine and Ron. And we ourselves are not expected to reach our destination without external supports. Who do you value to help support you along the way of obtaining your long term goals? Accepting support as well as incorporating self-compassion throughout your destination work will minimize doubtful thinking and will give you the ultimate set up for success!

As 2020 comes to a close, one can hold both gratitude for the past as well as excitement for the future. Think about how this year has served you and carry these lessons learned into the new year. With each new year comes new opportunities, new chances, and new goals to be achieved. We can’t wait to see what you accomplish in 2021 and are excited to be a part of the destination with you!


“Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.”

— Les Brown



References



Oppland, M. (2020, September 01). 13 Most Popular Gratitude Exercises & Activities [2019 Update]. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://positivepsychology.com/gratitude-exercises/
Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. Ch. 2
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