New Year’s Resolutions SUCK!
I’m not saying that resolutions themselves are inherently bad. In fact, most of my own successes began with promises I made to myself – to be the first in my family to receive a doctorate, to become a female business owner, to complete a marathon (still working on that one), to retire (yeah, working on that too), and to be a good mother, friend, and wife (maybe one day when we can finally set a date). My issue with resolutions is that they’re usually tied to some arbitrary date, like New Year’s. Who made up that rule, anyway?
People must come to terms with themselves and what they want to improve on their own, not based on some arbitrary date that obligates them to promise something to themselves simply because everyone else is doing it. That’s why so many resolutions last a very short while and then fail. The spark you need to change, the desire, comes from within yourself and is only somewhat influenced externally. This is the time of the year where it’s actually okay to be SELFISH!!! From my own extensive experience and research, I’ve put together a list of strategies I believe can help you accomplish your goals and reach your New Year’s resolutions (If you just HAD to make them):
- First, reflect on the reason why you’re making this commitment to change. Kicking off whatever change it is that you want to make – lose weight, stop using drugs/drinking/smoking, or even something as simple as doing more for others – comes from a personal desire to improve YOUR life. Don’t let outside pressure from family, friends, or even public service announcements force you into such a change. If external motivation is driving the resolution, you are likely going to fail. Change only happens, and sticks, when you’re doing it for yourself.
- Make a pros and cons list. Write down all the positives associated with keeping your resolution and all the negatives associated with breaking it. This step isn’t an easy one – coming to terms with how your failure to reach your goal may negatively affect you and those around you is tough. HONEST self-evaluation takes guts. This step may look something like this:
“Quitting drugs has the potential to increase my overall health and strengthen my relationships, it will allow me to fully participate in my life and deal with my world on my terms, not to mention it may save me hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year. Failure to stop using will further diminish my health and my relationships, it will prevent me from becoming a better person and achieving my goals, and will cause me to spend more of my income and perhaps even do things illegally to get my next fix. I will continue to alienate those I love, I will continue to lie, and I will continue to hurt others. I may be arrested, lose my job, and spiral totally out of control.”
- Determine who else is affected by the success or failure of your resolution. Now this may sound like a contradiction since I said before not to let family or friends talk you into changing. The key here is not to let those people twist your arm to begin the change. Instead, try to keep them in the forefront of your thoughts when you’re tempted to give up. Nag yourself – don’t let others do it for you. If weight loss is your goal, try not to think just about how much better you will look and feel, think about how much more active you will be able to be with your family. Think about how that will improve YOUR life while improving theirs.
- Keep yourself accountable. Visit www.stickK.com. This site allows you to put your money where your mouth, or in your case, your promises, are. You can enter a goal or resolution and promise to give to your favorite charity or, if you fail – your WORST enemy. We tend to be more committed to following through on promises when we have some skin in the game.
- Write down your goals and put them someplace where you’ll be forced to see them on a daily basis. Jotting your goals down on paper instantly makes them more tangible. It’s one thing to say “I want to lose weight”, but it’s something altogether different to write that goal down and come up with a concrete plan of action, a series of smaller goals, or MILESTONES, to help you attain success.
- Tell people. There’s nothing like a little self-inflicted peer pressure to keep you accountable. The more people who know about your resolutions, the more likely you are to stick to them. And, in today’s age of social networking, you can let nearly every friend, family member, and co-worker in on your resolution to change. After the initial announcement, keep everyone updated on your progress and share any small successes and failures you experience along the way. When others see your attempts to improve your life they may be influenced to do the same!
- Keep it fresh! Nothing leads to failure faster than stale routines and worn-out habits. Let’s say your resolution is to complete a marathon. You’ll need to buy new running shoes as they wear out, you’ll need to download new music or podcasts to keep you motivated, and you’ll need to vary your routes to keep things from getting boring. When you find yourself in a work-out rut, spice things up! This approach can be taken with any resolution. Use your imagination and keep things interesting. If all else fails, ask for help!
- Choose a realistic start date. Most people resolve to begin the change at the New Year. This may meet with immediate failure if your resolutions are financially related and you’ve just maxed out your credit card on Christmas presents for your fifty seven nieces and nephews. How about tax return time instead? Think about your goals as realistically as possible and plan your start date accordingly.
- Visualize yourself reaching your END GAME. Think of it like buying a home. When people are house hunting, they don’t see empty rooms. They see a fully-stocked library. They see nights spent playing board games at the dining room table. They imagine grandkids’ laughter and baby’s first steps. They visualize backyard cookouts, graduation parties, and holidays spent gathered around the fireplace. They don’t “see” what’s there, they imagine what could be. If weight loss is your goal, try visualizing yourself in the clothes you dream of wearing but lack the confidence to at the moment. If you’re trying to quit smoking, imagine yourself going on a long hike with your family without struggling to breathe for the first time in years. This may sound silly to you; it may seem like a useless exercise, maybe even a waste of time. But trust me and give it a try. Your imagination is a powerful tool and, if used properly, can really help you reach your goals.
- Celebrate your successes!! When creating your gameplan, think of ways to celebrate each milestone you meet along the way to your ultimate goal. Celebrating each phase helps you see just how much progress you’re really making and will motivate you to continue. Such celebration need not be elaborate, just a little something that makes you smile and keeps you encouraged despite minor setbacks and disappointments.
So, while arbitrary dates for change, like New Year’s Day, may, in fact, suck, resolutions to become a better person through overcoming personal weakness are necessary and much to be admired. It’s a bit like Thanksgiving. You don’t need a predetermined date on the calendar to be thankful for all that you have each day of our lives, but if that’s what it takes to get us in that mindset, bring it on!
Good luck to you – and when you need encouragement – our door is always open!
by Dr. Alicia M. Greene, Director of New Hope Community Services