New Year’s resolutions: Reflections on change and growth

2019 has arrived. Many of us greet the New Year with hopeful goals and plans that reflect what matters to us, be it health, family, career, and frequently, what we have not given sufficient attention to in the previous year. As a psychotherapist, I love this optimistic period of renewed commitment to deeply personal values and meaningful goals. I love that people are having conversations about what they wish to change and improve in their lives. What often emerges is a deeper kind of clarity about who we are and what matters to us; this clarity is a key component of resilience. It is simply easier to weather the inevitable storms of life when we are equipped with a strong sense of purpose and meaning.

Sadly though, that confident spirit of change and renewal frequently does not last beyond the second week of January. The goals we set and the plans we make often prove unrealistic, and we all too frequently put excessive faith in our own willpower, which is fickle at best, and outright treacherous at worst. Still, sustainable change is very possible when we choose our tools and supports wisely, and remember the old Chinese proverb: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” And the next step; and the one after that; and the one after that.

The act of taking each step must become imbued with meaning and presence if we are to continue and not give up. We must become mindful and process-focused instead of being obsessed with the outcome, constantly eyeing the horizon in hopes of spotting an imminent end to our struggle. Being in the here and now, focusing on the step that is in front of us while remembering why we are here in the first place, is what makes it possible to reach goals. This is a bit like climbing a tall mountain. The climber must be attuned to the right placement of their feet and hands in order to survive, must have a clear knowledge of the route (and willingness to deviate from it should circumstances warrant doing so), a strong sense of what they are trying to accomplish and why to sustain them in difficult moments, not to mention supplies and all sorts of other supports. A lot of New Year’s resolutions crumble as we try to climb our personal Mount Everests wearing shorts and sneakers, with one energy bar in our backpack.

You can set and accomplish incredible goals and not have them drift to the back of your mind halfway through the first month of the year if you prepare well, have a clear sense of purpose, focus on each step, and embrace that this entire process will not be free of discomfort. The truth is that not one deeply meaningful and gratifying thing in life is accomplished without some degree of pain, uncertainty, and risk. Accept that and you will find your journey less burdensome and more rewarding. And lastly, while your journey belongs to you, do not travel solo the entire time – friends, family, mentors, and therapists make excellent companions and guides when you need them.

Happy New Year! Wishing you a year full of growth and adventure.

About Aga Grabowski, LCSW, PMH-C, CST (she/her)

I am a co-founder of Wildflower, a psychotherapist, a presenter and a consultant in the area of perinatal and reproductive mental health.  Many other aspects of my personal identity shape my clinical work: chief among them is the family and immigrant background which has informed my attunement to the psychological upheaval that accompanies major life transitions and to the many sociocultural forces that impact our lived experience.

In my clinical work, I am focused on helping people thrive and cope during periods of significant change, and particularly during journeys towards and through parenthood which may involve infertility, losses, depression, anxiety, and conflict.  I work with people from all walks in life. Clients I work with are some of the strongest, most resilient folks I know. They don’t always feel this way, and they come to therapy feeling raw, maybe lost, and certainly quite vulnerable. It takes courage to confront your pain and struggle. I view psychotherapy as a deeply collaborative process that aims to help you discover and tap into your strengths and resources.  You already have what it takes to feel better, be happier, face challenges – good psychotherapy basically helps you access all that. This can only happen if your therapist genuinely cares about and respects you and is invested in their own ongoing professional development and personal growth.

I have extensive training in perinatal and reproductive mental health, evidence-based treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, sex therapy, and trauma.  I earned my bachelor’s degree in international studies at the University of Chicago and obtained my master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.  I often present on topics related to mental health. I am an AASECT-certified sex therapist and a certified perinatal mental health clinician. My most valuable learning experiences come from my clients: their experience, wisdom and perspective have shaped my clinical practice the most, something I am deeply grateful for.

LCSW License Number:149016046
Type 1 NPI Number: 1841631132
Accepts: BCBS PPO and BlueChoice plans, Lyra, self-pay and out of network clients


Selected training and affiliation
AASECT-Certified Sex Therapist
Certified Perinatal Mental Health Clinician
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Training
Bringing Baby Home Educator Training, Gottman Institute
Circle of Security Parent Educator
Supportive Parenting for Anxious Childhood Emotions (SPACE) training
Gottman Method Level 1 training
Dialectical Behavior Therapy Training

Key beliefs
People are stronger and more resilient than they often realize.
Our culture teaches us to be fiercely independent. To thrive, we need to embrace being interdependent -- deep connection with others is essential for happiness.

More about me
I love the outdoors and hiking, camping, kayaking.
I can’t live without chocolate.
I feel grateful every day for getting to do the work I love.