By Jodi A. Shaw
It’s common knowledge that many of us take off full blast with our New Year’s resolutions on January 1st — smokers throw out their lighters and ashtrays, wannabe fitness buffs get locked in for three years at their local gym — only to come crashing back to earth by mid-January. Others, recognizing that resolutions frequently fail, prefer the low expectations route, holding tight to their ashtrays and lazy lifestyles and tossing out resolution-making instead.
And who can blame them? According to research, most resolutions are doomed simply because they’re too lofty. Expecting to flip the calendar and wake up a non-smoker or suddenly in love with the stair climber is a recipe for defeat. If you’ve spent the last 10, 20, 30 years establishing a certain lifestyle or bad habits, you’re not going to be able to change overnight, regardless of how dedicated you are.
But there’s hope for us sinners and slackers. Let’s dissect the term “New Year’s Resolution” for a moment. Resolution: “A decision to do something or to behave in a certain manner.” New Year: The year to come. All 12 months of it. Give yourself a break and keep in mind that you have 365 days in which to live up to your resolutions.
So don’t just resolve to “lose weight” or “quit smoking” or even “make more money.” Instead, make a 12 month plan, comprised of smaller, more manageable goals, each contributing to the larger goal (lose weight, quit smoking) you hope to accomplish by December 31st. This is an approach that may work particularly well for males. According to a Quirkology study quoted on Wikipedia, “Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, a system where small measurable goals are used.” Women, on the other hand, “succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.” So keep talking up your plans, too.
Twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous attribute much of their success to this sort of one day at a time, one goal at a time plan. For his part, Dr. Phil likes to remind us, endlessly, that in order to rid your life of a bad habit, you have to find a better one to replace it. So why not put the two together into a sort of 12-step, Dr. Phil double whammy? To lose weight, consider for the month of January swapping your most sinful indulgence (mmmm, chocolate) for something healthier, like a snack of strawberries and yogurt. In February, while sticking to January’s goal, you could incorporate exercise twice a week. Maybe in April you could up it to three times a week. By August, you could have found a healthy substitute for chocolate, sugar, and fast foods. Isn’t it handy that our calendar just happens to lend itself to this 12-step two-step?
The hope here is that each month you will tackle one component of your larger goal, and by the year’s end the 12 new habits you’ve formed will translate into one successful “resolution.”
If you fail to achieve your mini-goal in June, don’t despair; try a new one in July. Even if you succeed at just nine or 10 of your goals, you’re likely to see the kind of results you need to keep going.
It’s easy to get caught up in the resolution making hype that arrives at this time of year, but if you’re really serious about changing what you want to change, take the pressure off yourself and keep it simple and manageable, one month at at a time.