As the New Year once again rolls into view, you’ll see a lot of websites, newspapers, blogs and friends talking about ‘new year resolutions’, and all the grand plans you ‘should’ be making for next year. Lose weight. Learn a new skill. Get a promotion or a new job altogether. Find the perfect partner.
Well were here to tell you that, guess what? You don’t have to be doing any of those things! Unless, that is, you actually, really, honestly want to.
Whenever you come up against a statement or a thought that includes a ‘should’, a ‘must’ or a ‘got to’, you are coming up against a demand. Rational Emotive Behaviour therapy (REBT, the type of CBT we teach here at the College), tells us that such demands should be treated with caution. Holding on to rigid, irrational and unhelpful demands is what often leads to upset and emotional distress, because quite often, our irrational demands are simply not met. And how could they be, they’re irrational!
Instead, REBT teaches us to choose flexible preferences, which are much more rational and helpful. For example, I’d really like to get a new job next year, but I accept there is no rule of the universe that says I have to. If I don’t, I can handle the disappointment and it won’t mean I’m a failure.
Holding a preference-based belief mean we can still pursue our dreams, but we won’t be devastated if we don’t achieve them straight away.
The ‘who says’ solution
In the face of the annual onslaught of resolution-making, why not try asking yourself one of the questions REBT therapist use when challenging clients’ rigid demands? We call it pragmatic disputation, but a simple way of doing it is simply to ask, ‘who says it has to be this way?’
Who says you have to get a new job, lose weight, get married etc? If it is just a magazine, or your friends, or even yourself, that doesn’t mean it’s true. It’s just someone’s opinion, not a hard and fast rule of the universe. Don’t feel so pressured to achieve it, or like a failure if you don’t. You don’t actually have to do any of those things.
However, if you can think honestly and clearly about your goals in life (see here for our thoughts on clear goal setting), and can honestly say you want to achieve those goals for rational and healthy reasons, whilst at the same time accepting they do not absolutely have to happen, you might find it suddenly becomes easier to achieve them.
Losing weight becomes easier when you are doing it for healthy, long term reasons, rather than because a magazine tells you it’s what you have to do in January. Learning a new, and perhaps profitable, skill becomes easier and more enjoyable if you are doing it because you want to and have a genuine interest, rather than because you feel you ‘have to’ be able to do it. And so on.
So go ahead, make your new year resolutions, or not. It’s up to you, and no one else.
And if you think REBT might be a good way to both live your life, learn new skills and perhaps get a new job, take a look at our range of courses and diplomas that can take you all the way to accredited therapist status. But only if you really want to!
CBT / REBT therapist