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Pressing Play when Life is on Pause: A Guide to New Year Resolutions in the Age of Corona…

“Well, you know, you just can’t plan anything in this crazy world, can you?” Leah was distraught. For years she had wanted to quit her job in job in data entry and turn her hobby of experimenting with different recipes into something more lucrative. She admitted that she never had the confidence to even contemplate studying and she kept telling herself that this was just a teenage dream. After all, this is what everyone had said, hadn’t they? “The truth is”, she said, if I wanted to make a change I should have done it years ago. I mean, who makes a change at my age!” Yet deep-down, Leah still believed that she could find a more fulfilling career for herself, but how? No-one was making any changes during corona, were they? What, I wondered, had been holding her back for all these years? Was there perhaps a small step that could start her on the path to change, that she could start now?

As I write this, a second lockdown has just been approved, here in Israel. This year has been a turbulent year for so many of us. It seems that nothing is certain any more. Many of us have loved ones who we cannot see as they live far away, or have a compromised immune system. Others have seen their life’s work close, as more and more businesses can no longer operate. Still others have joined the approximately one million unemployed in Israel. It seems that everything has changed, a mere six months ago seems a lifetime ago.

We may be feeling helpless and hopeless, wondering what to pray for in this coming year, or even if we will even have the opportunity to come and pray together as a community.

As the year draws to an end, we may be filled with dismay and find it hard to look forward to an uncertain future. However, setting even a small, attainable goal, can give us a feeling of hope and empowerment, in this unpredictable world.

But how do we even make a goal? Often, even in pre-corona years, we started the year full of hope to bring important change in our lives, only to find that by the end of Sukkot, we are hard pressed to even remember what our goals are, let alone start on a path of change. So what is stopping us from getting to where we want to be? Why is it so hard to make a plan and actually stick to it?

I think that a lot of the issue starts when we start to set a goal. What do we say to ourselves? We don’t want to get angry at our kids anymore? We want our boss to stop bothering us with mountains of work and actually start to appreciate our worth? Maybe we want to lose weight, or start an exercise regime? So what is stopping us from achieving these noble goals?

I remember being asked what I do, shortly after setting up my private therapy practice. Finally, I had the opportunity that I had been waiting for! I mean, everyone who starts their own business, is just waiting for the opportunity to be asked what they do, don’t you think? So what could I say? All I could think of was that I no longer worked as a Social Worker. “I just ended my job as a Social Worker to start a private practice.” Suddenly, I became tongue-tied, and all I could think of was my work as a Social Worker. Here was a topic that I felt confident about and I happily told the person what I did. The conversation quickly turned to the challenges of Social Work and we continued chatting for a few minutes. It was only after the conversation that I realized that if I continue in this vein, no-one will ever have an idea of what I do now!

So what exactly happened? I think the answer lies in how we make a goal. NLP – or Neuro-Linguistic Programming, helps us to re-programme the brain to achieve results. It has been dubbed ‘the science of success’ as it focuses on attainable, positive goals. Our sub-conscious does not understand negative language. If I tell you “Don’t think of a pink elephant!” – Three guesses for what actually pops into your head! This is in fact a clue to how to reach a goal. Before even start working on a goal, we need to start formulating what the goal actually is. When we tell ourselves that our goal is to ‘stop being stressed’ – Our mind hears: ‘STRESS, STRESS, STRESS!!” Is it surprising that we end the following year being more stressed than when we started!! So as you can imagine, just telling myself at the beginning of the conversation that I was no longer employed in a Social Work setting, was bound to get me talking about – you guessed it – Social Work!

Rule No. 1: Make sure the goal is positive…

I had a client who came to me several years ago. Let’s call her Anna. Anna had grown up in Russia and was particular about education. For her, education was high on the list of her priorities, and she told me how she had spent hours practicing the piano each afternoon after school. She sat in her bedroom for each evening pouring over her homework. Any grade less than an A, was untenable.

So you can imagine how she felt when her son, Ben, preferred to spend his afternoons playing football outside. Not surprisingly, every afternoon ended in an argument and tears. In desperation, she came to me, to help her change his behaviour. She was hoping that I could give her some tips on how to ‘fix him’ so that all would be peaceful once again in her home.

Do you notice that our goals focus around what others should be doing? We want our teenager to talk to us respectfully, our boss to stop yelling and our seven year old to complete his homework on time. NLP teaches us to focus on what is in OUR control, what WE can change. In our therapeutic sessions, I worked with Anna on achieving this. As soon as therapy turned to what was in Anna’s control, she noticed how she was able to be more and more understanding of his needs, and how she could help him. Recently diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), Anna began to learn more about how this condition affected Ben, and how she could help facilitate his learning. Anna began to feel more loving and understanding towards her son, which, in turn, led to much happier afternoons together.

Rule No. 2: Make sure that the goal is in your control.

Sara came to me because she wanted to get married. Years of dating had left her drained and fatigued. When I asked her why she came to me, she said that she wanted to get married. When I asked her how she hoped to achieve that, she looked at me blankly. After speaking some more, she finally said: “I haven’t even been on a date for the last six months, maybe if I feel more confident, it will help me get married”. But what does confidence mean? Did Sara herself even know what that meant?

Too often we make goals such as being happier or feeling more confident. How will we even know when we reach it? If we can start to translate these feelings to what we will DO differently, we are well on our way of making a profound change in our life. Oh, and you probably want to know how Sara is getting on? She made a goal to speak with at least two new people, each week, regarding potential matches. And did I tell you that she started dating an incredible man a few weeks ago?

Rule No. 3: Make sure that your goal is behavioural.

Leah and Daniel had always said that they would make Aliya. They loved Israel, and they knew that this was the place to raise their three small children. They just needed a little more time to plan it… Meanwhile, Daniel got offered an amazing job and it seemed to be a shame to miss this incredible opportunity. A few years later, their eldest son had just got settled in school, and they felt that they could not make such a huge adjustment now…

Often we have noble goals, but lack a time-frame. We really want to do something, have a goal that is dear to our hearts, but life keeps pushing it off. Oh, and Leah and Daniel? Their middle son is about to have a Bar Mitzvah this year and how could they take him away from his familiar environment at such an important milestone?!

Rule No. 4: Make sure that your goal has a time frame.

In my work running NLP Practitioner Courses, as well as in my therapy practice, I see that time and again, having an attainable goal is a crucial key to creating lasting change.

Make this Rosh Hashanah, the year that attain reach your goals! Let me take this opportunity to wish you a Shana Tova Umetuka, filled with wonderful aspirations and amazing goals for the coming year.

Make the year 5781 the year that you reach your goals! I would love to help you achieve this. Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about the powerful tools of NLP, and how you can use it to embark on a therapeutic career, or add it to your existing therapeutic toolbox, please be in touch about the next certified NLP Practitioner Course beginning in November 2020.

For more information about individual sessions or registering for the certified NLP Practitioner course, I can be reached at: 054-8032427, or via email: avivaserenge@gmail.com

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avivaserenge@gmail.com               054-803-2427             Katamon,  Jerusalem