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Lisa Ferentz LCSW-C, DAPA

Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions—Part 2

Choosing goals that last

CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay
Source: CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay

As I discussed in Part 1 of this series, research has demonstrated that it’s nearly impossible to hold on to the momentum of a New Year’s resolution, and most people abandon their goals within a month of making them. Despite that reality, it seems to be human nature to want to start January 1st with a clean slate, so the concept of making resolutions probably won’t go away.

Identifying concrete ways to improve yourself and the quality of your life is immensely valuable, as long as you approach the challenge in ways that set you up to succeed. In the last installment, I spoke to the importance of making your resolutions specific, smaller,and doable. Here are a few more suggestions that can increase the likelihood that you’ll still be working on those goals in June:

Make the timeframe reasonable

As important as it is to make sure that your goals are realistic, it's equally essential that you give yourself a timeframe that makes sense. It’s easy to be overly enthusiastic in the earliest stages of embracing a new behavior and to assume that excitement will help you achieve the goal quickly. But you're probably underestimating the amount of time it actually takes to practice and integrate new changes to your lifestyle or mindset. If you expect to achieve results quickly, then you may be setting yourself up for disappointment and will be more likely to give up sooner. Consider how long you’ve been doing the old behavior and then ask yourself if the time you’ve allotted to changing is actually reasonable.

Make the resolution positive

If you’re like most people, without realizing it, your resolutions are probably being stated in a negative way. “Quitting,” “giving up,” “stopping,” or “letting go” of thoughts, feelings or behaviors you want to get rid of or change. Although the distinction may seem subtle, when you rephrase the resolution and focus on what you want to embrace or do “more of” it generates a more positive mindset. You are more likely to gravitate towards positive actions and thoughts than negative ones. It’s more reinforcing and rewarding to focus on what you want to add to your life rather than what you are trying to get rid of. And ironically, there is less internal resistance to a positive invitation, “I can become a non-smoker” rather than a negative command, “I will stop smoking.”

Make a resolution that matters to you

If you have a long-standing history of making the same resolution every year because it’s never been resolved, it's worth asking yourself why you're making it in the first place. You might be focusing on a goal that someone else wants you to achieve. Maybe you think it will make someone in your life happier. It might be a change that your feel pressured to make because society or your culture deems it important or necessary. Although those sound like noble reasons, changes and new behaviors really stick when they matter most to you. So take the time to ask yourself what you want and need in 2016. Do you want to focus on improving your health, the quality of your relationships, a sense of inner peace, more self-confidence? Do you want more professional growth and challenges? More downtime?

Start with one thing—one thing that really speaks to you. Go slowly. Chunk it down into manageable and measurable parts. Give yourself adequate time to achieve it. Celebrate the baby steps of progress along the way. With this approach you are far more likely to keep the momentum going. Enjoy your newfound growth in 2016!

Missed Part 1 of this series? Click here.»