Thursday, December 31, 2009

T3 - New Year Resolutions: Some Friendly Cautions

To set the record straight, I'm all for resolutions. I just don't think they should only be inspired by a new year. The date should be irrelevant to when you want to make an improvement to yourself.

However, it's pretty accepted that January 1st is some magical date to "start over" or "wipe the slate clean." So to that I say give it your best shot! But I have a few cautionary words as well.

1) Make your goals realistic.

If you're completely addicted to Starbucks, live/work three blocks from one, have a friend who works there or any combination of these three, then your resolution to abstain from Starbucks is pretty unfeasible. (Not to say there aren't extremely strong-willed individuals out there, but I'm just speaking in generalities as I so often have to do.)

2) Don't always focus on BIG goals.

Goals don't always have to be the long-range, big time stuff. The best accomplishments, in fact, could be a series of small goals you achieve. But if you only think about the big picture, you could miss this opportunity to triumph!

It's a great idea to break big goals into smaller ones anyway. That way, you're not overwhelmed with the idea of having to graduate from school. You just work your way through individual classes first. Losing the first 5 lbs can be the hardest when the amount you're aiming for is 50 lbs.

3) Figure out your rewards ahead of time.

What's the fun of actually accomplishing your goals if there's no reward? Sure, there's that inherent, philosophical idea that you did what you set out to do. That might be enough for some of us, but it's not at all enough for others. Some crave recognition, so maybe you should blog monthly about how far along you are in sticking to your resolution. Some crave a physical reward, such as divinely expensive chocolate, Kindle books, or manicures (oh, wait...this post isn't supposed to be about me!). Reward yourself for staying true to your goals...and do this on a regular schedule. It might work for some to treat themselves weekly instead of monthly. You know yourself.

4) Don't wait until January 1st, 2011, to jump back on the wagon.

There's nothing magical about January 1st! If you don't meet your goal, just get back to it as soon as you can! There is this supposed formula that it takes 28 days to break a habit. Well, in 28 days, you're still in January! Many, many, many resolutions are broken during the very first month (I tried to find the exact percentage, but it's late and I'm tired and the internet fairies weren't forthcoming).

Treat an occasional lapse as a temporary setback, not something to throw your hands up, gnash your teeth and wail about. If you went 10 days with no Starbucks, but on day 11 couldn't fight the aroma calling to you in your sleep, then just start back on day 12. One coffee in 10 days won't send you to the dark abyss. It's better than 10 coffees. The same could be said with getting off your diet, smoking a cigarette or compulsive shopping.

5) Be purposeful in your resolutions.

Don't just sporadically come up with something you think you'd like to change. Really give it some thought. According to psychologist Richard Wiseman, who led a study about failed resolutions, "If you do it on the spur of the moment, it probably doesn't mean that much to you and you won't give it your all. Failing to achieve your ambitions is often psychologically harmful because it can rob people of a sense of self control." Even more so, when we fail at our resolutions, we can often feel even worse about ourselves than we did before we made the resolution, and that's no place anyone wants to be.


So, now that you know better how to prepare for your resolutions, I thought I'd add some sure-fire ways to increase your chance for success.

Breaking goals down into smaller steps is definitely the number one thing to do. This increases your chance of success to 35% (according to Wiseman's study). If you add the reward system, the success rate goes up. If you add telling your friends, keeping a diary (or blog) of your progress, and focusing on the benefits of succeeding (not focusing on the downside of not succeeding), then your success rate goes up to 50%!

So keep these things in mind when making your resolutions!

Here's wishing everyone a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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Mary Aalgaard said...

Thanks for the advice. I'll admit that I saw the post and thought, Oh another resolution pep talk. Well, with your good humor, it was a delightful talk that went well with my morning grapefruit. I like the rewards system. I'm implement it immediately!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oooh, I never thought about having a reward in mind. I like that! :-)

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Great advice, Jeannie!

I'm not much for New Year's. I just don't get the point. It's more of a hassle learning how to write the new digit!

sherrinda said...

Great advice! I wrote down goals this year. I don't always do it, but I felt I needed some accountability. Not that anyone can make me follow through, but just putting it out there, makes me focus better, I think.