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New Year’s Resolutions: How To Make Them So You Can Keep Them

by Dr. Ilona L. Tobin

For the past four years, Betty has made a New Year’s Resolution to exercise more. She’s also vowed to lose weight (an annual resolution since 2000), and to finally start that novel (this one goes all the way back to 1995.)

Like two out of every five Americans, Betty begins every new year with stout resolve and good intentions. But like most who make New Year’s Resolutions, by the time the spring fashions hit the shop windows, all that resolve has gone the way of last year’s colors. No exercise program. No weight loss and, sadly, no novel. Not even a beginning chapter.

What goes wrong?

Betty’s problem and the difficulty most people face in keeping their resolutions is that changing behavior involves more than simply vowing to do so. A lot more. So, whether you want to do more or less of something, quit something altogether or start something new, here are a few tips that can help.

  1. Be sure the change you vow to make is something you really want, not just something you think you should do. Altering habits is hard work; if you’re not going after something you really want, you set yourself up for failure.
  2. Be specific. Instead of vowing to “lose weight,” state that you want to lose five pounds by March 15. State your goal in incremental, measurable, specific terms. Be certain it’s attainable, too. To go from a sitting position to running a marathon in six weeks may be too long a distance to travel in that short a time.
  3. Accentuate the positive. When you just say no, you’re reminding yourself of what you can’t have or can’t do. Instead of saying “no fatty foods,” say “nonfat milk and fruit for dessert.”
  4. Believe in yourself. Positive self-talk, affirmations and encouragement really do help. Even if you fail the first time, that doesn’t mean you’re doomed to failure. Be easy on yourself if you lapse. Change is often a two-steps-forward, one-step-back process.
  5. Easy does it. Set your goals in short, manageable steps rather than one giant leap. Start slowly: go to the gym twice a week instead of four times; walk a block instead of a mile.

As for Betty and her novel, at last report, she planned to commit to a page a day, three days a week. At that rate, by the end of the year, she’ll be well on her way to a first draft.
If Betty can do it, you can too. What change do you truly long to make in your life this year?

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Ilona Tobin has been a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist for more than 25 years in Birmingham, Michigan. For more information, please visit her listing on the Therapist Directory.

6 Responses to “New Year’s Resolutions: How To Make Them So You Can Keep Them”

  1. Farouk Says:

    thanks for the post, i would also add that it should be something that the person really wants instead of something that he has choose just to have a goal

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