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Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2019

New Year’s Resolutions

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Start with manageable goals, make a plan and write it down

As 2019 comes to a close, most of us will be making our New Year’s resolutions. Some common ones are losing weight, exercising more, getting more organized, saving more money, getting a better job / going back to college and quitting smoking. Here is a question from a reader about keeping New Year’s resolutions.

“Dear Andy, recently, I have been trying to settle on a New Year’s resolution for 2020. I feel overwhelmed with all the things in my life. I want to change to be a healthier, happier me. I have a history of not sticking to my resolutions. In the past, my resolutions have included eating healthy, exercise more, lose weight and budget my money better. I only lasted a few weeks, and then I was back to my old ways. How can I be more successful in sticking to my New Year’s resolutions?” Signed: Not So Resolute Dear “Not So Resolute,” what you’re describing is very common. Studies have shown that only about 25% of people stick to their New Year’s resolutions past 30 days, and only 8% are successful at keeping their resolutions all year long. There are things you can do to increase your resolution success greatly. Here are the top five:

Choose the Right Resolution: It’s really important to determine the best goals for you personally. Don’t choose resolutions based on social pressures or out of feelings of guilt or shame. Think of things that will make you happier and feel better about yourself. Be sure to only pick one resolution to work on. Having multiple goals can be self-defeating. Think about if you are really ready to start a resolution right now, or do you need some time to prepare. You don’t have to start a plan on January first. You might be better off preparing yourself and starting when you are ready, not when the calendar says you should. Is your resolution something you genuinely want to do or what your doctor, family and friends, or society says you should?

Set Realistic and Specific Goals: Your resolutions should be realistic and specific. Setting unrealistic goals like losing 80 pounds this year though possible and specific, may not be practical for you. The goal to go completely gluten-free is tough for most people. Setting realistic but unspecific goals such as living healthier, getting more active, or being a better person are too broad. Narrowing your goals down and being very specific may help you reach and maintain them. For example, eating fewer carbohydrates and sugar in your diet, exercising more, volunteering to help others often, or becoming more spiritual will be more attainable.

Write Out a Specific Plan: Don’t just plan in your head; write a specific plan down on paper or your computer. Statistics tell us people are more apt to stick to a plan, whether it’s eating, exercising, studying for college or saving money for a new car if it is written down. This is because writing things down is an actual physical action you are taking toward your goal. Writing your plan out helps clarify exactly what you are going to do and not do. This process also helps when you re-read it often to stay on track.

Making a pros and cons list is a good way to start developing a plan. Think of how your life will be different three years from now if you stick to your resolution. Picture yourself three years from now. How have you changed for the better? What did you have to give up to get there?

A specific plan should include breaking down your goal into daily, weekly or monthly increments. Divide your plan into stages toward your long-term goal, and be sure the stages are measurable so you can see your progress. Be flexible in your plan so you can tweak it as you find things that don’t work. Your plan should also include what to do when the pullback to old habits starts (and it will) and how to get back on track with your goal.

Give Yourself Rewards Along the Way: As with all long-term goals, rewarding yourself along the way is helpful to manage the negative thoughts and feelings along the way for things you’ve given up. Some days you’ll succeed and some days you won’t. Don’t beat yourself up; get back on track as soon as you can and remember to look long-term.

Tell Others About Your Plan: To help you stay on target, tell trusted family members, friends and co-workers about your resolution and give them updates. It can be really helpful to have some accountability partners. There are also many support blog sites to give and receive support on a wide variety of topics.

So use these helpful tips, and you will have more success sticking to your New Year’s resolution.

Andy Sibley, MA, LPC, LMFT is a psychotherapist in private practice and contracted counselor for “The Dr. Phil Show.” To Ask Andy a question about a difficult situation you may want advice with, please email him at Andy@AndySibley.com or go to his website at www.AndySibley.com.

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