New Years Resolutions
Does the whole idea of “resolutions” make you laugh? True, declarations that things are going to be different this year often have a shelf life of a couple of months, tops. Gyms and treadmill manufacturers make a lot of money from people who resolve to get in shape in the new year, then work out a dozen times before slipping into old routines.
There’s a powerful pull to feel that change is more possible when we’ve hang up that fresh new calendar. We think about the year just past and imagine that next year truly is a blank slate. We’ll get that new job, drop that bad habit, reform and restructure our lives. The start of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of where we’ve been and make plans to do things differently.
Typical resolutions involve fitness and money. People resolve to stop smoking, eat healthier, work out more regularly. Or to pay off those credit cards, save more each month and sock away the bucks for retirement or that first house. Other people resolve to get out more, be more sociable, change jobs. Those can all be worthy goals, but start making changes by checking your motivation. Is this important to you, or are you just making your resolution because you think you should?
Most of us find it easiest to make alter our lives when the way things are going really bothers us, so take a look. If you decide something isn’t all that important you are likely to feel better if you just acknowledge that and move on. Beating yourself up is a waste of time.
Face your negative thoughts. Many of us have lots of negative chatter in our heads. This internal critic undermines our efforts. Remind yourself of things you’ve accomplished in the past. Encourage yourself and skip the self-blame, excuses and old ways of thinking.
If you decide to make changes, be selective. Choose no more than a couple of goals at a time. Make a plan of action. Be specific: how will you know when you’ve achieved your goal, and what steps are you going to take to get you there? Most people do better if they write put their goals on paper – maybe even tape them to the bathroom mirror where you can be reminded each morning.
Don’t be grandiose or perfectionistic. “Stop eating desert” is probably unrealistic. “Enjoy desert no more than once or twice a week” is more practical. Your goal is progress, not perfection.
Consider enlisting friends in your effort to change. You may be able to keep that exercise goal if you find a workout buddy. And telling someone you’re going to quit smoking can help you hold yourself accountable. Lots of people start off well, but gradually return to old patterns because they have trouble maintaining new habits.
Maintenance is key; better to make a small change and stick to it than to go like a house on fire at first and then give up in a few weeks. If the change you are contemplating is a big one, divide it up into smaller steps. And don’t forget to reward yourself for successes.
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