10 Ways to Keep Your New Years Resolutions

What are your goals for next year? Here’s how you can achieve -- and maintain -- your resolutions for the New Year.

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Set realistic goals.

This is not to say don’t shoot for the sky. If you want to lose 100 pounds, for example, and your healthcare provider agrees that your body would benefit, then most certainly make that your ultimate goal.

In addition to your ultimate goal, you also want to develop short-term goals.

Consider if you wanted to get to the top of the CN Tower without an elevator. How would you do that? Would you take one giant leap and land on top? No. You would take one step at a time- right? You would take 20 or so stairs to get to the next floor and then set out for the next 20 steps.

Short-term goals are like getting to each floor of the CN Tower In addition to the long-term goal of getting to the very top, you want to focus on the smaller, more manageable goals of reaching each floor.

Another important component of goal setting is making the goals based on your behavior, rather than the outcome. For example, the average person’s weight can fluctuate five pounds during the course of a day. So, making a short-term goal based on pounds lost may not be the most accurate representation of your weight loss success. Instead, try “I will workout four times/week for 30 minutes each day” as your goal.

And make sure your short-term goals are attainable. Expecting yourself to workout 7 days/week for 60 minutes when you normally do not exercise may not be a healthy initial goal for you. “I will never again eat anything with sugar in it” can set you up for disappointment.

Track your success & reward yourself.

How are you doing towards your goal? If the answer is “I don’t know,” then more likely than not you are not on track.

Document when you do whatever it is you want to do. For example, put a smiling face on the calendar for every day you do not smoke. Or write in a journal each time you exercise and for how long. Tracking your success will help keep you on the right path.

And remember, reward is a powerful motivator — much more so than punishment. That is why beating yourself up when you don’t achieve your goal often does not help you get back on track.

Develop a reinforcement system for you, and make sure the reward is, in fact, something you want. And make it contingent on achieving your goal. I had a client who loved to get massages. She decided that, after achieving her short-term goal for one month, she would reward herself with a spa treatment. The problem was, though, she knew she would still go get a massage even if she didn’t exercise as she planned. The result? No motivation to workout for a massage, which resulted in less motivation to workout. Have that carrot dangling in front of you to help you stay on track.

Address setbacks.

The average smoker takes seven times to quit for good.

Scientists who study change consider “relapse” to be a normal part of change. This does not mean “feel free to give in every once in a while.” It does mean that, if it happens, you need not beat yourself up.

What others call “failure” I call “data.” What do I mean by this? If you vowed to never have a drink again but find yourself having consumed half a bottle of wine, ask yourself “why?” What were the ingredients that went into that decision? Consider components such as your stress level, environment, people around you, emotional state…Use the answer to “why” as data, or information that will help you get back on the right path.

You can also be more proactive with this data. If you have tried to achieve your resolution in the past and were not as successful as you might like, ask yourself what variables affected your behavior. Proactively identify possible future triggers, such as stress, people or certain environments, and ways to overcome these.

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, is a psychologist, physical therapist and author of the bestselling book A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. She has been quoted by some of today’s top media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, NPR,Woman’s Day, Glamour, Self, Woman’s World, Health and Real Simple. Visit www.AHappyYou.com for more information. And order A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness today!

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Dr. Elizabeth Lombardo
Related Topics: Resolutions, New Years, Weight Loss
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