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Happy New Year! Is it time for New Year’s Resolutions?

According to one commonly cited statistic, only 8% of people actually keep their New Year's resolutions. If we think about resolutions as being promises we make to ourselves, that represents 92% broken promises. That many broken promises would certainly be hard on any relationship, and they are equally damaging to our relationship with (the way we feel about) ourselves. How can we learn to better keep our promises to ourselves?

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The Un-To-Do List

So many people make to-do lists; you probably do, too. And when your experience is that your list really helps to keep you moving in the direction that you want to go and leaves you satisfied at the end of the day, then, by all means, keep it up. But if you sometimes find yourself stuck, or burdened and beaten-up by your list, you might want to change it up a bit and try an un-to-do list.

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What Is Your Inner Tone of Voice?

At times when you are feeling discouraged, insecure, or inadequate, it might be helpful to stop for a moment, take a breath, and notice your inner monologue. Just observe -- as if you were overhearing a conversation in a restaurant or while shopping. Notice both what is said and how it is said. When you take a pause to actually listen, you often discover that it is not too surprising that you are feeling the way that you do. In fact, you might think that you would probably have a negative reaction to hearing other people talking to each other this way. Then consider that this voice is with you all of the time, often unquestioned, not even consciously noticed because it is so habitual. When their attention is directed to how they try to manage themselves internally, most people find that they would feel guilty or ashamed to be talking to anyone else in this manner, and they would probably attempt to avoid doing it. Yet our inner reaction to something as minor as a television-and-Oreos indiscretion can be pretty harsh, and more significant mistakes elicit even more negativity.

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What Really Matters?

What is truly important to you? If you give yourself a few moments to imagine looking back on your life from an advanced age, what do you want to see your life as having been about?

The question can sometimes feel too big and broad to answer, yet investing the time and effort to clarify your values as an ongoing practice can not only protect you from being disappointed in your future answer to that ultimate question, but can also help you to maximize your experience of meaning and fulfillment here and now.

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“Accept my difficult emotions? What does that even mean?”

In mindfulness-based approaches to therapy we often talk about “acceptance” of difficult or painful thoughts, feelings, and sensations. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), one of the newer cognitive-behavioral therapies that incorporates mindfulness as well as values clarification, promotes acceptance as a vital part of developing psychological health and flexibility. Unfortunately, many people’s initial reaction when they hear that is: “That’s not what I want; I want to get rid of those feelings!” and, “How would I do that even if I wanted to?”

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