Remember that feeling back in December when you were looking forward to a few weeks off from work? When you would sleep. Relax. Go to the movies. Enjoy time with your family.

How about that excitement and anticipation you felt when you envisioned yourself sitting quietly in your favorite place, with your notebooks, planners and vision boards, designing your new year?

And then BAM! Just like that, holidays are over, we are back at work, and you feel more tired than you did a month ago.

Here’s what happened. Food, parties, family, travel, money spent, disrupted routines – basic life craziness all packed into 31 days.

The month of December is an onslaught of activity that is not our norm the other 11 months of the year. And yet this is the month we decide we’ll take a few restful days off and get ourselves excited about all the big new wonderful goals coming our way?

We’re crazy. Nuts. Kooky. Insane to think that the best way to start off our new year is to pressure ourselves to relax, regroup and goal set during the busiest and most stressful time of year!

I don’t know about you, but I am personally exhausted just reading all the articles on various media outlets about how best to make and keep your resolutions. And not just exhausted – I feel a lot of pressure to do everything right – relax, take quiet time, set goals, get excited, find my word, find my desired feelings, etc.

So now I’m starting to stress out about my ability to hit my goals before I’ve even taken a step forward!

I wrote a bit about this back in December, and want to reiterate: You don’t always have to take major action to move forward. Sometimes the best approach is to relax a little bit.

Soooooo much to say on the topic of how slowing down, stepping off, relaxing a little bit, giving yourself a break can be, in fact, what moves you forward. I know that may sound oxymoronic – slow down and achieve your goals?

Believe me, I used to be in a place where I didn’t believe that myself. I prided myself on being a goal setting, goal achieving, and goal management rock star! And don’t get me wrong, I can still kick some goal ass like a rockstar!

But as I get older, as my relationships evolve and as my health meets with different challenges, I have come to realize that kicking ass looks very different than it used to.

So I’m going to ask you to release any attachment to getting something done right now, take a quiet moment to read on, give yourself a break and maybe find a more productive, relaxing, enjoyable approach to moving yourself forward in the new year.

Be Present

What exactly does this mean? I wondered that for years. Of course I’m present – I’m here, right? I’m getting things done. I’m moving my shit forward. I’m checking things off my list.

Back in 2010 when I was taking classes for my Health Coaching certification, I would go to New York City one weekend a month for Saturday and Sunday classes. I remember the very first weekend when I was so excited to start my certification journey, yet nervous and overwhelmed at the same time. All these emotions running around my head – not to mention that on day one, I was already trying to figure out how to make money doing this work so I could pay back my investment (like all the marketing materials had promised).

And then our instructor did something that stopped me in my thoughts. He said, “Relax. Enjoy this experience. You have nothing to do and nowhere to go right now. Sit back. Listen. Learn. Engage with others next to you.”

And so I did. And you know what? I learned a ton! I made a friend (which was good because I was worried about who I would go to lunch with). I enjoyed just being in a room full of other people who were learning about holistic health from top experts.

I was present in that moment. And my experience was so much more profound than it ever would have been if I had continued to think, plan and worry about how my experience would (or should) happen.

So as we sit here in January, recovering from a nutso December, worried that we haven’t yet lost 10 pounds, wondering when we’ll start to make more money, disturbed that relationships haven’t grown as deep or fast as we would like, or whatever else you may have on your list of new year goals that you haven’t yet completed, I’d like you to stop.

Stop thinking months ahead of yourself. Stop beating yourself up. Stop comparing yourself to others. Stop reading about what new approach you could take to your new year goal achievement.

Be as present as you can during each activity you’ve chosen to move you closer to your goals.

Losing weight? Try focusing on how your healthy food tastes vs. entering your calorie breakdown in your app (you can do that too, but first, be present in the eating part).

Work goals (more money, promotion, new job, business for yourself)? Try fully engaging in your next ‘to do’ vs. reading more ‘how to’ articles, worrying that others will get there before you, multitasking, stressing out about whether or not you ‘can do it’.

Relationships? Try enjoying time with family/friends/partners/kids with no other agenda other than enjoyment. No should dos, no past grievances, no trying to change others – just enjoy the fact that you have family/friends/partners/kids, and engage with them.

Sure – being a go getter is a great thing. But the key to getting is to take a moment to receive what you’ve already been given.

Focus On Behavior

Our behaviors are the foundation for goal achievement.

When thinking about how exhausted you are coming into this new year, and then pushing yourself to create and hit some new year goals exhausts you even more, it’s time to ditch more action and instead focus on your basic behaviors.

Our goals are so end state oriented. We’re here and we want to be there. And we don’t have a lot of time or patience, so this all has to happen as fast as possible. Go Go Go!

We don’t need January 1st to dictate to us that we are now in some final countdown toward ultimate goal achievement. We need to dial our enthusiasm back, stop with the dramatics, and tune into aligning our behavior with our intentions.

I used to be a big fan of “I’ll start Monday” commitment to myself. New way of eating? I’ll start Monday. Exercise routine? I’ll start Monday. New time management approach to the week? I’ll start Monday.

Rj laughs at me all the time about this idea that somehow, on Monday, I’ll be all ready to go and immediately do something different. Usually something big.

Then I did a year long nutritional coaching program and learned that small behavioral changes that line up with your BIG intention are what holds the sticking power.

The concept is the same as microsteps that I talk about constantly. Small steps in the direction you want to go are fine. In fact they are BETTER for making longer term change.

So yeah, you’ve got great goals for this year. January is your “Monday”. There is hype, expectation and excitement piled on top of stress, exhaustion and maybe low energy.

Let go of the big picture for a moment and simply focus on one small behavior now. Be present in this decision (reread above paragraph). Know that you’ll get there eventually. Be proud of focusing on yourself and your behaviors. Let the rest of the ‘big stuff’ happen over the course of the next 365 days.

The new year doesn’t have to be a Big Bang of change. After all, slow and steady always wins the race.


  • Gayle Hilgendorff

    Executive Health and Leadership Coach, Thrive Global Facilitator, Author and Aspiring Blogger

    Gayle Hilgendorff Executive Health and Leadership Coach / Thrive Global Facilitator / Aspiring Blogger (corporate2carny) / Author of Live More, Work Better: A Practical Guide to a Balanced Life (Bascom Hill Publishing Group, 2015) Gayle Hilgendorff is a certified executive health and leadership coach who left her Managing Director of Human Resources position at Accenture in 2011 to found her own business focused on helping corporate executives achieve their best, professionally and personally, through better health. While at Accenture, Gayle was responsible for executive career coaching and leadership development programs for a global organization of 30,000 people. After a turning point in her own career, she realized that true leadership and professional success were founded on being a healthy person – mentally, physically and emotionally – not just working harder. Gayle’s health passion became a platform for her consulting work with corporate executives. Working with participants across the globe, she incorporates holistic health concepts into her leadership coaching. Gayle integrates basic knowledge about how eating better, moving more, and finding ways to manage stress are the true foundations for a successful personal and professional life. With science backed concepts, and easy to integrate actions, Gayle’s programs have received high praise and tangible results. Gayle’s background in the corporate world combined with her likable, easy style make her a believable, relatable coach/presenter/author who has proven success in helping people make big change.