by Magda Murawska, M.Ed.
It’s hard to believe that April is here already. It seems like just yesterday we were braving the cold and windy days, bundling ourselves in layers of clothing. Now we’re greeted with birds chirping and the sun warming our faces. Spring often makes me think about new beginnings – life starting anew. Much like the effect New Years has, I become a bit more optimistic about life and am ready to conquer what’s ahead of me. It also makes me think about that list of goals that I set out for myself back in January. At the beginning of the year for the last few years, I have created a list of things I’d like to do in the next twelve months. It’s not like a resolution to be better or thinner, but a plan to do things that I haven’t yet done (like run a half marathon!), things I’ve been putting off doing (finishing that dissertation), places I’ve been wanting to visit (there are many). I try to keep the list as realistic as possible. There’s no way that I will be able to visit Belize this year, so that’s not on the list, but visiting some place new (any place) within the US (even if it’s just a couple of minutes from where I live) is. The purpose of the list is to motivate me to go out there and experience life. And it serves as a great way to plan outings, trips and new experiences.
So far there’s about twenty-something things on my list. As I look over the items that I promised myself I would do this year, only two have been crossed off so far. The thoughts of “You should have done more by now!” start creeping in and I start to feel a bit anxious, as well as frustrated that I haven’t been more active in checking these items off my list. But, I make a conscious choice to stop thinking these negative thoughts. I realize that engaging in them won’t help me accomplish anything on this list, but rather ruin my renewed excitement about spring. We often forget that we have this power over whether we want to engage our negative thoughts or not. Maybe it may seem uncontrollable as to what thoughts come into our minds, but we do have control over whether we engage them or not. By engaging them, we are giving them credibility and letting them decide how we feel. My thought of “I should have done more!” is a demand that I was making of myself. Since it was a demand that I had not met, if I had chosen to engage it I would have ended up beating myself up and feeling depressed over my lack of progress. But as REBT teaches us, demanding is one of the irrational beliefs and engaging in irrational beliefs leads us to disturb ourselves. I definitely do not want to disturb myself.
So as I looked over my list of ‘2012 to do’s,” I acknowledged that I wished I had done more in the three months that have passed so far. But I also make myself acknowledge that I still have nine months more to go – nine months filled with exciting things to accomplish. Looking at it this way makes me feel more optimistic about what lies ahead. Rather than beating myself up over not doing enough, I choose to embrace what I have yet to experience this year.