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New Year Goals and Resolutions

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 31, 2019 11:41 am    Post subject: New Year Goals and Resolutions Reply with quote

20 goals for 2020

On behalf of The Ismaili, we wish all our readers a Happy New Year, and hope that 2020 brings you lots of joy, happiness, and good health.

The passing of another year provides an opportunity to pause and reflect. We think back over the past months and ask what we will remember most, what we learned, and what worked well.

Over the past 10 days, The Ismaili has suggested 20 goals for 2020 on its social media channels. Further to numerous requests, we are pleased to share the full compilation for our readers. As we enter a new calendar year, let us look forward to everything we would like to achieve. We hope these 20 goals will inspire you to think about your own goals for the coming year.

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 12, 2020 7:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Problem with “Smart” New Years’ Goals

There’s a name for the sudden spur of motivation we often feel at New Year’s—the fresh start effect. You might also feel it on your birthday, at the start of the school year, or during other new beginnings. It has the potential to bring genuine, positive change in our lives: Research by behavioral scientists Hengchen Dai, Katherine Milkman, and Jason Riis shows that people feel more committed to pursuing their goals just after these “fresh start” moments, and are even more likely to hit the gym. The researchers argue that these moments are powerful because they make us create “new mental accounting periods.” Fresh starts allow us to move our past failures to the previous week, month, or year, take a deep look at our life, and start dreaming of a better tomorrow.

But while many of us sit down on December 31 to set good intentions for the year ahead, only a small proportion of us follow through. “There are several reasons resolutions fail,” says Bettina Höchli, a senior researcher at the University of Bern’s Department of Consumer Behavior. “One is that we have such high hopes.” You know how it goes: You haven’t entered a gym for more than a year, but, starting in January, you plan to go three times a week. “It’s a good thing to use this day to start a new goal, but it doesn’t mean that you’re a whole new person with whole new motivations and interests,” Höchli says. “It’s unrealistic to change completely from yesterday to tomorrow. If we want to change behavior over the long term, it’s better if we start with little changes.”

“There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

There are hundreds of studies, blog posts, and personal development books that promise to help us achieve our goals. Many of them champion what’s known as the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework. Developed in the 1980s by consultant George Doran, it proposes that we’re most likely to succeed when we choose goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, personally relevant, and time-bound. Although this strategy can be helpful for getting you started on your goals, Höchli says it has some drawbacks when it comes to following through on New Year’s resolutions. “The problem is that S.M.A.R.T. goals are time-bound by definition, so if you have actually achieved what you were striving for, you relax,” she says. “You feel that you have done enough, that you can go do other things now.”

Höchli argues that achieving New Year’s resolutions usually involves building new habits. Rather than focusing on specific, short-term goals, she recommends bringing some bigger-picture, longer-term aspirations into the picture. “It’s not just about one single behavior over a limited time,” she says. “It’s about behavior change that should be maintained over the long term.” These superordinate goals are less focused on concrete behaviors and more on how you want to be in the world. Goals like wanting to be healthier or more generous fall into this category. They’re a lot broader than subordinate goals, like ordering a salad at dinner or giving $50 to the local food bank.

Superordinate goals are also more flexible than subordinate ones, because they can apply to more than one situation. “Getting fitter,” for example, can encompass a range of activities—from winning an ironman to taking a stroll in the park. So if you don’t succeed on your first attempt to get active, there are still plenty of other ways you can make progress. “Going to the gym on Wednesday,” on the other hand, is a much narrower goal—and, therefore, an easier one to fail.

Höchli may be onto something. First, superordinate goals are more closely tied to our “ideal self,” which means we find them more meaningful than subordinate goals. Psychologists have shown that the more meaningful a goal, the more motivated and committed we are to achieving it. A 2019 study by Höchli and her collaborators suggests that combining superordinate and subordinate goals can help us stay on track with our New Year’s resolutions. The researchers followed more than 250 people from January through March of 2017 and monitored their progress on their goals. They found that people who set both superordinate and subordinate goals at New Year’s invested more effort into pursuing them.

Setting the right goals is important, but so are our perceptions of ourselves. Self-efficacy—the belief that we can achieve the task at hand—is one of the most important factors influencing goal success. For example, one study found that having the “confidence to change” was one of the most powerful predictors of whether a person made progress in their New Year’s resolutions. Of the 200-plus people who participated, the most successful were not only more confident, but also more positive; they believed in their abilities and spent less time engaging in self-blame than those who failed at their resolutions.

Höchli says that one of the best ways to stay positive is, counterintuitively, to anticipate the worst: “You should realize that you will relapse at some point. This doesn’t mean that you failed. It just means that you have to take another try.” There’s a straightforward explanation for why this is the case. Imagining the obstacles you might encounter down the road is a great way to strategize about how to overcome them—a core part of building resilience. But acknowledging the potential for disappointment at the outset also has psychological benefits; you’ll be less crushed if (or when) it occurs.

Luckily, it turns out the disappointment of failing our resolutions may be less painful than we’d expect. “We don’t realize how good we are at coping with negative events,” says Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. “We treat our psychological immune system as if it’s incredibly ineffective or doesn’t even exist at all.”

Dunn specializes in the psychology of happiness, and has spent years researching what’s called affective forecasting—our ability to predict our future emotions. She explains that, by and large, people tend to overestimate how bad they will feel after failures or disappointments, as well as how long it will take to bounce back. They also underestimate how happy they’ll feel after other experiences, like exercising or spending money on someone else.

In the context of goals, this inability to accurately predict our feelings can have important implications. People also tend to overestimate how happy materialistic goals, like wealth or fame, will make them, and pursue goals that will never actually fulfill their deeper psychological needs. But, Dunn says, these mispredictions aren’t always necessarily a bad thing. Consider studying for a big exam, or preparing for a major presentation, for example. Overestimating how bad you’ll feel if you mess up might be just the motivation you need to succeed. “Maybe it’s good to exaggerate the emotional impact that various outcomes are going to have for us, if that helps us take [our goal] more seriously,” Dunn says. “It’s a really tricky question.”

Another surprising benefit of our inaccurate emotional predictions is the enjoyment we get from overestimating our future happiness. Our false expectations, research shows, can actually be quite pleasurable. “Even if you’re overestimating how much you’ll enjoy that trip to Hawaii, at least you can enjoy that anticipation,” Dunn says. “I think a lot of life is getting there.”

Results from six studies supports this idea that focusing on the pursuit of a goal can be helpful in the long term. The researchers encouraged more than 1,600 people who had just achieved a personal goal to reflect on their recent success through the lens of either a “destination” or a “journey.” They found that those who thought about their goal as part of a journey were more likely to continue making progress towards it—even though they’d supposedly already achieved it.

When I asked Höchli what she thinks of all this research, she reminded me of a quote by Oscar Wilde: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.” Achieving our goals can feel great, but it can also leave us feeling a little lost. “You’ve invested a lot of time and effort into something, and then you’re just done,” she says. “This can give you a really nice feeling or release, but it can also leave you a bit empty.”

That’s why Höchli, like Dunn, recommends making the most of the journey itself. “Have fun!” she smiled, as we said goodbye. “This is the best reward of all, I think.”

Alice Fleerackers is a freelance writer and a doctoral student at Simon Fraser University, where she studies how controversial science is communicated in the digital sphere. Find her on Twitter @FleerackersA.
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 13, 2020 10:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Effortless Environmentalism

Here are some easy ways to live more gently on the earth. The key word here is “easy.”

NASHVILLE — My annual resolution to give up sugar — a resolution I keep most of the time and abandon with abandon as soon as pecan pie hits the Thanksgiving sideboard — lasted less than a week this year. It lasts less than a week every year because at our house the holiday season doesn’t end until our oldest son, born on Jan. 7, has blown out the candles on his birthday cake. I have no genetic resistance to my grandmother’s brown-sugar pound cake, the birthday cake my son requests every year; I have to start my resolution all over again on Jan. 8.

The whole trouble with resolutions is that keeping them is hard. Which makes sense: If it were easy to keep a resolution, there would be no need to make one. But in truth, resolutions needn’t be so hard. Instead of resolving to give up sugar, I should just resolve to give up sugar except during times of whole-family celebration. That’s effectively the same thing, but it’s the happy kind of resolution that doesn’t entail self-loathing at the end of every party.

In that spirit, I offer some very doable resolutions for living more lightly on the earth. If 2019 is truly “the year we woke up to climate change,” then 2020 should be the year we start actually doing something about it. Because we are very nearly out of time.

Listen, I know: Dryer balls won’t save the world. Saving the world — and by extension the human race — will take a level of political will the likes of which we have not seen before and which we will categorically never see from this administration. Which makes it all the more crucial to do our part, however small. Think of these suggestions as baby steps on the path toward a growing commitment to change.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2021 7:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

2020: The year when everything changed

It is tempting to think that we can just leave 2020 behind and look ahead to a fresh new year. However, this might be short-sighted. The bigger picture suggests that collectively, we have never learned so much in such a short space of time — about the world, about each other, and about ourselves. It would be wise to hold on to these lessons, as we may soon need to put them into action...

A year like no other

Because it was a leap year, 2020 was one day longer than 2019, though it felt like many more. One struggles to even remember last January. This is mostly because the Covid-19 pandemic dominated news coverage more than any other topic since the second world war. The novel coronavirus has infected over 70 million people and caused at least 1.7 million deaths. Many survivors are now living with the effects of ‘long Covid.’

Back in March of this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the global pandemic and uncertainty began to spread faster than the virus itself. Lockdowns were soon put in place across the world. We prepared for a crisis. Panic-buying set in, schools and shops closed, and busy streets quietened to a whisper.

We thought at first that life would return to normal in a matter of weeks. Then months. Or could it be years? What we thought was normal was no longer. The pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns have been particularly isolating for elderly people, and particularly disorienting for young children. Both these groups, and everyone in between, were required to adjust physically, mentally, and emotionally to a ‘new normal,’ or a series of ‘next normals,’ involving an overnight loss of freedoms.

Working from home blurred the boundaries between labour and leisure time, leading many to work longer hours than ever before. Days were difficult to tell apart, and weeks seemed to merge into one another. Living rooms became offices and bedrooms became classrooms. We learned about Zoom, and soon after, Zoom-fatigue. We also felt guilty about complaining too much, as others had it much worse.

Sadly, some lost loved ones, and were not even able to grieve in customary ways. Others lost their jobs, businesses, and even their homes. Efforts to combat the pandemic have come at the cost of economic hardship, mental illness, delays to medical services, escalating inequity, and interruptions to education. And the end might not be as close as we hoped.

The head of the WHO emergencies program, Dr Mark Ryan recently said, “We live in an increasingly complex global society. These threats will continue. If there is one thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to honour those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.”

The events of this year should make us reflect with greater clarity on the risks and threats facing the planet and its people. More than this, our experiences should also equip us to be better prepared for future outbreaks of disease and other large-scale emergencies.

Getting our act together

We asked many questions this year. About microbial particles, screen time, anxiety, depression, climate change, natural and manmade disasters, and about injustice. We found that the answers often led to more questions.

Across the world, people raised their voices to demand fairer, kinder, and more equitable societies. Public attention became better focused on the realities of discrimination, while politicians and corporate leaders were challenged and quizzed on what matters most in life. Some responses were no more than token gestures, but others were significant and unprecedented.

We also learned to act in unity at a global scale. We witnessed scientists developing treatments and therapies, people talking more openly about mental health, young leaders advocating for climate action, and Ismaili volunteers launching a streaming TV channel. Ironically, the planet-wide effort of disconnecting physically has made us realise again how emotionally and spiritually connected we really are.

At a time when in-person gatherings became impossible, our community was still able to connect across the world and engage with one another via The Ismaili digital platform, and even celebrate our major festivals of Navroz, Imamat Day, Eid, and Salgirah collectively as One Jamat, together at home.

While we were socially distancing, scientists, doctors, epidemiologists, and logistics experts were hard at work to find a way out of this crisis. We must not forget the crucial role of thousands of selfless volunteers who participated in clinical vaccine trials for the benefit of us all. With the international approval of the initial set of vaccines, we experienced anticipation, relief, and a sense of wonder at the talent and determination of which human society is capable.

The first internationally approved vaccine, by Pfizer/BioNTech, was formulated in Germany by Turkish migrants, developed by a US-based pharmaceutical company, and produced in Belgium, a poignant illustration that knowledge sharing and reaching across borders was a key feature of science in 2020. The diverse and global nature of society cannot be ignored and the sooner we acknowledge that pluralism is a strength, the sooner we can step into a brighter, post-Covid future.

The rapid work to develop, test, produce, and deliver a number of effective Covid vaccines is a staggering and encouraging scientific achievement, one which offers a collective sense of hope and confidence that when we pull together, we have the ability to tackle the problems that humanity may have to face in 2021 and beyond.

Looking ahead

This year certainty evaporated before our eyes. We were each tested to varying degrees of difficulty. Entering into a new year will not erase the adversity or suffering of the previous 12 months, and nor should it.

We know we don’t have all the answers, but recent months have provided some of the most important lessons we’ve ever learned, helping us to grow and mature beyond our years. As 2020 began, our aims might have been material in nature: a promotion, or a shiny new purchase. Today, those aspirations have been willingly exchanged for things that matter more: visiting family, seeing friends, attending Jamatkhana.

Because of the current hiatus of such freedoms, this has been the most difficult year that many of us can remember. However, turbulent times have invariably inspired human progress. Some have suggested that pent-up demand resulting from mass shutdowns could lead to a new ‘roaring twenties’ filled with forward-looking innovation and novelty.

So in facing uncertainty, which strategy is best to go along with? As with most things, it’s likely a combination: intentionally and intelligently looking ahead with a balance of humility and confidence. Humility can help us notice blind spots and develop problem-solving capacities, while self-confidence promotes resilience, courage, and motivation, which can help us get through the long days of January and beyond.

As Mawlana Hazar Imam said in his Talika Mubarak on 13 December, “It is a matter of satisfaction that my Jamat continues to draw inspiration from our historic tradition of facing adversity with unity, resolve and resilience, and I am convinced that my Jamat will emerge from the present crisis with enhanced strength and capacities as we plan for the future.”

An opportunity to reflect

The year 2020 awoke feelings we had never before experienced. It taught us that life is fragile, and that things can change in an instant. It encouraged us to care more for our general health. To better appreciate nature. To be grateful for key workers, teachers, public transport staff, delivery drivers, and healthcare heroes. It taught us empathy, patience, and adaptation. We can say we lived through a momentous period in history. How often does the world change, overnight? For basically everyone on Earth?

Amid the exhausting, uncertain reality of today’s world, there is wonder too. We have shared grief, loss, hardships, and illness, but we’ve also persevered. We have learned what resilience really means. We have shown we are strong enough to face uncertainty.

Hope is what makes us human, and right now, hope is still present. As time progresses, the endless scrolling and Zoom calls can stop, we may begin gathering again, and with some luck, handshakes and hugs will return.

This year, every Jamati institution, and every member of the Jamat has been tested. Yet, we are still here. Looking ahead, 2021 promises many more ups and downs. As we enter into a new year, not only can we be optimistic about the future, but in years to come, we may even look back at 2020 and be grateful.
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 01, 2021 8:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

21 Goals for 2021

With optimism and hope for a new beginning, and as we all think about our resolutions for the new year, The Ismaili would like to share with you 21 Goals for 2021!

With a nod to each one of our 21 Ismaili Council jurisdictions across the globe, and inspired by our 20 Goals for 2020, we hope we can resolve to accomplish them all together.

Happy New Year!

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