Understand Other People

Better communication through a better understanding of behavior

Resolve to Set Resolutions That Work!

Five keys to success in 2014

New Year's Resolutions
If over 50% of the population sets a New Year’s resolution, but studies show that less than 10% of people actually achieve what they set out to do, it seems we need a new model for resolutions. Change is good. If we have behaviors that aren’t working for us—we overeat, we yell at our kids, we hate our jobs, we smoke and/or drink too much—it can be good to define a new, more positive activity. The problem with the typical New Year’s resolution is that when the euphoria of the “new year” wears off, the commitment to the resolution often wears off with it.

If you have an important change you want to make this year, let’s look at five tips to making change work for you:

  1. Define success for you—and why it matters to you. Take the time to think about what you want, specifically and why you want it. So instead of “I will eat healthier food this year,” write a goal like “I will eat carrots instead of potato chips for my afternoon snack because I like the feeling that comes from putting healthy food into my system.” The clearer and more specific you can be, and the more meaningful the goal is to you, the longer you will stick with it.
  2. Understand your obstacles. You haven’t reached this goal in the past because… why? Something has stood in your way; not enough time, not enough money, not enough focus. There are many reasons why we don’t do what’s good for us. Take a few minutes to identify what holds you back and gets in your way. Focus on the obstacles you can either control or influence, and make sure you manage around them as you set out toward your new resolution.
  3. Chunk it down. If you have been a couch potato for the last 5 years and your New Year’s resolution is to start running 5 miles a day, it probably won’t work. You could start with taking a walk around the block for a few days. Then run around the block. Then run a little longer, then a little longer. Ease into it. First of all, the smaller goal is likely to allow you to succeed—and success breeds success. Second, the smaller goal is going to be more manageable and more realistic, giving you a greater chance of meeting it.
  4. Remember that any new behavior takes 21 days of dedicated effort. You have been “practicing” the behavior you don’t want for a long time. Chances are, you have become very good at doing the thing you no longer want to do. Now you want to implement a new behavior. It won’t happen overnight. It takes a minimum of 21 days—consecutively—of doing something new to make it stick. Every time you miss a day, set the clock over again. Keep going for 21 days and the new behavior will be yours.
  5. Watch the self-talker. You might try and change the outside situation, but if you don’t change the inside talker, you will likely defeat yourself over and over again. Your mind will often drag you down by telling you that you simply cannot do something new; there is no reason, no hope. Have a plan to catch these voices that want to keep you stuck and give them a new voice: “Change is natural. I can make positive change happen for me.” “I am committed and focused. Yes, I might fall into old behaviors, but I can get up again and start over.” “I know my obstacles and I work around them—I move consistently toward my goal.” Pick whatever language is right for you, but be prepared with it for when those voices of doom want to bring you into negativity.

People make change happen every day, and you can too. Resolve to set a resolution that will work for you in this new year. Give yourself every opportunity to get somewhere that matters to you. You can be in that under-10% category of successful resolution-setters and resolution-getters.

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Beverly D. Flaxington teaches at Suffolk University.

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