If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to establish some resolutions for the new year. Keep in mind, however, that following through on those resolutions may be more challenging than you anticipated. Reaching an important goal or making a significant life change is never an easy task, but it can be well worth the effort. So, if you’re struggling to stick to your diet or put down that pack of cigarettes, approaching the task from a psychological perspective may help. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Plan ahead, and be specific.
Most people make their New Year’s resolutions during the holidays when spirits are high and daily schedules are anything but routine. Once January settles in and you’re back to work, however, you may not have the time to start a new project or focus on eliminating bad habits. The good news is, planning ahead can position you for success and help you maintain a positive attitude. Instead of saying “I’m going to finally write that novel,” for example, decide when you will specifically set aside daily (or weekly) writing time, what tools you need to get started, and then start putting pen to paper. The same goes for exercising more, reaching job-related goals or any other major change you want to incorporate into your daily routine.
Take one step at a time.
Keep in mind that most people only have a certain amount of willpower. Major lifestyle changes should be approached seriously and given the necessary forethought for success. If you try to drop 15 pounds, quit smoking and find a new career all at once, your odds of succeeding with any of them diminish. Instead, give each goal the attention and focus it deserves, and concentrate on one major change at a time. That success can carry over into tackling your next goal.
Try, try again.
No one is perfect. Of the 45 percent of Americans who make New Year’s resolutions, less than half of those last more than six months. Odds are, you won’t maintain a perfect record in reaching your goal. And that’s okay. Begin your life change with the knowledge and acceptance that some days you will be too busy, too tired, or just not in the right mood to address the goal, but that a few speed bumps won’t stop your overall progress. Everyone faces setbacks in attaining their goals, but people who continue on after a setback or two are more likely to experience success. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and keep plugging away, one day at a time.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.