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In Conversation with WellBeing at the Convent’s Ulli Baxter

Ever thought of spending more time alone? Or practicing gratitude daily? We speak with Ulli Baxter about the art of making resolutions and how to stick to them, no matter how big or small they may be.

Why do so few people manage to keep track of their New Year’s resolutions?

The reason why only about 8 per cent of people manage to achieve their New Year’s resolutions is that they are often done spur of the moment, without necessarily being thought about too deeply, and are generally focused on ‘fixing’ what’s wrong with us – such as addressing health and fitness problems – rather than thinking more carefully about what and where we are heading in life generally and what we need to do to achieve that. Resolutions which are aligned with our values and sense of purpose are much more likely to be achieved.

One of the issues you’ve outlined is that people don’t set ‘holistic’ goals. What do you mean by that?

Holistic goals are goals that focus on different aspects of our lives, not just simply on one aspect, such as work and career, but also include our relationships, health and wellbeing, living environment, travel and acquiring new skills and capabilities. The reason it’s important to consider all aspects of our lives is to ensure that goals we may set in one area doesn’t end up ‘sabotaging’ other areas of our lives or creating more difficult challenges. An example would be setting a goal to advance your career, which might involve moving interstate, without necessarily considering how it would impact on your relationships, your potential living environment etc.

What’s another all too common misstep people make when setting themselves personal goals and resolutions?

The challenge with setting goals at the beginning of a New Year, is the tendency to think you need to set goals to last the whole year, which means that people often set goals that are large ‘chunk’ goals and have unrealistic expectations of what is possible and have no specific timelines and no smaller milestones which are motivating and achievable. Another key aspect with goal setting, which most people overlook, is the change in mindset, beliefs and habits, which are necessary in order to achieve their goals.

You have a list of resolutions to guide people in setting their own goals, including ‘spend time alone every day’, and ‘practice gratitude daily’. How rewarding can such seemingly simple goals be?

I believe that while these practices can seem overly simple, they are indeed very powerful. Current research suggests we are constantly bombarded with information and rarely get the time (other than when we sleep) to literally ‘switch off’ and allow ourselves to ‘recharge’. Even when relaxing, most people will still be ‘switched on’ to social media or multitasking, which can create a sense of being overwhelmed and lead to stress and anxiety. Learning to just ‘be’ by yourself allows your brain to relax and also helps you to think about the goals you are working towards, finding intuitive solutions to challenges and becoming re-energised to achieving your goals.

Likewise, the daily practice of gratitude helps you to stop focusing on what’s missing or ‘wrong’, and being overly critical of yourself, which helps you maintain motivation to achieving your goals.

How do you help a wide range of clients who might have diverging personal goals, such as ‘more me time’, or ‘connecting with friends and family more’? What’s the common denominator in helping to achieve different resolutions?

The point of developing ‘holistic’ goals is so that we don’t need to see our diverging goals as competing or conflicting with each other, but to focus on how we can integrate all of these into our lives. So rather than seeing goals such as ‘more me time’ and ‘connecting more with family and friends’ as competing, it’s about seeing how we can achieve both, rather than ‘either or’, or feeling that we need to prioritise one over the other. The key to achieving both goals is also to be doing these more mindfully – enjoying each moment that we have in either area, rather than being distracted by thinking about the next goal we want to achieve.

The New Year can be a great reminder to reassess both your personal and professional life – but should people allow more time for self-reflection in general, not just on 1 January?

Definitely. Given the faster pace of life these days, you need to reassess your goals more frequently than just once a year, as circumstances can make your goals irrelevant or you may need to reassess them. You might also achieve them more quickly than expected, so that gives you an opportunity to set more goals rather than waiting until the end of the year.

What else can people expect to get out of your upcoming workshop?

The workshop is an opportunity to gain greater clarity and focus on what people really want in their lives before starting to develop tangible goals. Creating a personal vision aligned to their values will help them develop goals they are more likely to achieve. The workshop will also help people to recognise any limiting beliefs, thoughts and habits, which could potentially derail their efforts.

Can we expect to see more workshops from you in 2018?

Yes, I believe people enjoy practical workshops where they get an opportunity to discuss the concepts presented in more depth and assess how they can use these effectively to transform their lives. Last year, I conducted a series of workshops on the topic of flourishing and what we can do to help us flourish. This year I will be conducting a series of workshops focusing on what’s stopping us, how we can identify the limiting patterns, habits and behaviours we constantly repeat, how these impact on our lives, and to develop practical strategies to ensure they don’t get in the way of us having a truly remarkable year.