How To Be a Successful Resolutionist

Okay, this holiday stuff is about to wrap up - the shopping, the angst, the planning. At the gym I've been going to for many years, we're already bracing for the next big challenge, the annual invasion of the resolutionist - those folks who show up on December 28 or January 3rd to begin their physical make-over. For a while we'll be short of lockers, we have to wait in line to use equipment, but we know that most, if not all of them, will be out of there by mid-February, middle of March at the latest.

Yes, it's that time of year to look ahead. Some folks, of course, stopped thinking about resolutions a long time ago - why bother when your track record tells you that it's a waste of time? But resolutions don't deserve the bad rap they often get. They serve an important purpose, namely keeping you from running on auto-pilot or straying away from what's important in your life. Like any good race, the keys to being a successful resolutionist are prep and pacing. Here are some tips for turning that post-holiday, end-of-the-year determination into real sustainable change:

Look back. So how was the past year? What were you proud of, why? What do you regret? What do the regrets teach you about what to do next time around? Taking some time to do this type of reflection about your life, loves, and relationships over the past year can not only help you tidy up and put the past to rest, but can help you decide what your priorities need to be for the coming year. Be honest, be gentle with yourself, but take a look.

Go small. Laying out 30 goals dooms you from the start - you'll get too scattered, exhausted, or frustrated, and likely pitch it all in a couple of months. Don't think life make-over, start with 3-month make-over.

A good resolution list is selective and short. Think of a few doable, concrete tasks - finally make that Will, or rent that beach house in July. Add a couple of middle-ground items that aren't really major challenges but more a shifting of priorities - spending more time with your son, having a date night with your partner at least once a month. Finally throw in those one or two bigger challenges - lose 20 pounds or find a new job.

Know your saboteurs. Write down as well how you might sabotage yourself - bringing work home keeps you from spending time with your son. Having unrealistic goals - losing 5 pounds a week-makes you throw in the towel after a month. Simply by acknowledging what might come up can keep them from coming up.

Big challenges - think means not just ends. If you want to lose those 20 pounds, worry less about the poundage and more about the means - walk, bike, workout at the gym at least 4 times a week for 30 minutes or commit to weight watchers for 3 months. If you want to change jobs, commit to spending an hour a week looking online for potential jobs. While you want to keep the eyes on the prize, you're better off focusing on committing to the how of getting there. If you do the doing consistently, the goals will follow along.

Set deadlines now. Don't let "I'll do it later" stop you in your tracks. Set a date to talk to a lawyer, sit down with your son or partner this week and map out time and dates to be together, punch into your planner the drop-dead date for nailing down the beach reservations.

Get support. Having someone to walk with will help you get out of bed when it gets too cold and you're feeling tired. Looking over job prospects each week with a friend or partner can help you stay on task. Remind your son about your trip to the mall on Saturday as a way of reminding yourself. Decide now what you need to be successful.

Re-evaluate and update. Successful resolutions often require fine-tuning to avoid being dumped. You didn't get the bonus you expected so you can't afford the beach trip. That's okay, find something affordable to take its place. Walking doesn't work in the cold weather after all - move to walking the mall. Job search is bleak - talk to your boss about changes you can make in your current position that would improve your attitude. Check in with yourself a regular basis - every month or so - to clear out obstacles and stay on track.

That's it. The real goal here, of course, isn't necessarily the meeting of any specific goals, but finding out that you have the capacity to set goals and actually reach them. Do that enough and your view of who you are and what you can do will change in dramatic and positive ways.

So get to work. Come up with the list, be patient with yourself, but be persistent....and have a Happy New Year.

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