• How to Achieve your New Year’s Resolutions

    by Dr. Elil

     

    There’s a powerful feeling around January. A new year is beginning, and with it comes a new beginning. It can symbolize a fresh start, a chance to put the past year’s struggles and feelings of failure behind us. It’s often why people set new year’s resolutions, to create goals for the upcoming year. But many of those resolutions end up in failure and frustration. Here are some steps to give you a fighting chance this year.

    • Learn from the past – If you’ve failed at keeping resolutions in the past, there’s probably a part of you that’s saying, “this year will be different,” or “this time I’m going to be stronger.” But willpower and effort are not enough to change patterns. Your past successes and failures can teach you a lot, if you’re willing to examine them honestly.
    1. Make a list of your successful resolutions or the parts of resolutions that you completed successfully in previous years. What helped you be successful? How can you recreate those circumstances?
    2. Next, make a list of failed resolutions. Come up with the reasons why you might have failed to achieve each. (Hint: “not enough willpower” is not a good reason).   Don’t commit to the same resolutions unless you have a specific plan on how to overcome each difficulty. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up with the same negative results.
    • Keep it specific – “Be healthier” is a very vague goal. “Lose weight” is slightly better, but still too vague. A better resolution is “lose 16 pounds in 4 months (4 pounds per month) by working out 3 times a week at the gym and eating no desserts at dinnertime.” You want a resolution that you have specific behaviors tied to and one where you can easily tell whether you’re meeting the requirements or not.
    • Write your goals down and keep them somewhere you see them every day. Also, write down all the steps that will lead you to success under each goal Mark them off as you achieve them. We are much more likely to achieve goals that are written down and easily seen.
    • Reward yourself – Tie a specific reward to each resolution and milestones along the way. This is true especially for any resolutions that last longer than a month. It’ll keep your motivation high and help you recognize your progress.
    • Social support – Any resolution is made stronger by having a support group that will cheer you on and hold you accountable. Ideally it’s other people who also want your support in their resolutions. Agree to share your progress, issues, successes, failures, etc. on a weekly basis via email or phone. If it’s something that can be done with another person, for example working out or cooking healthy food, then find an accountability partner and work together. You can also celebrate your successes together!
    • Think systematically – We often think of the behaviors we want to change in isolation, without taking the rest of our lives into account. New behaviors happen as a part of our lives, so create the triggers in your life to keep them going. If you want to drink more water each day, for example, set a water bottle in front of your computer and drink every time you open a new webpage or file. If you want to work out more, set a time of day you are most likely to go to the gym and keep a gym bag with workout clothes in your car.
    • Recognize a step back vs. failing – It’s nearly impossible to commit to a new behavior and stick to it 100%. There will be work or family conflicts, illness, etc. At those times, you have a choice of dropping the resolution, modifying the resolution, or picking up where you left off. Be kind to yourself and either modify it if you find it’s unrealistic, or pick up where you left off if you were doing well with the resolution. Accept the lapse and recognize it doesn’t make you weak or a failure. No one ever shamed themselves to success.

    The minute you make a resolution, you’ll feel a rush of positive chemicals in your brain. Your brain sees making the resolution the same as achieving the goal. But that’s where it gets dangerous. It’s very natural to get lulled into a sense of complacency after you make a resolution, leading you to never even take any steps towards achieving it. The real work begins in starting as soon as you make the resolution. So start now!! Best of luck in the new year!

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