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How To Make A New Year’s Resolution ACTUALLY Work

Here comes 2011

If you’re like most people, an entire year goes whooshing by and as the end of it approaches, you wonder why those resolutions that seemed so attainable 12 months ago were ignored, forgotten, and left by the wayside. Resolutions often start off more like a wishlist. “I’m going to be taller, thinner, prettier, and happier. And I want a pony. And a BB Gun.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but not too off the mark. Losing weight, finding love, quitting bad habits (smoking, drinking, overspending, etc.) and spending more time with family and friends are always some of the most popular choices, and last as long as the amount of time it takes to say them– about three seconds. They’re impulse resolutions, with no real forethought or planning involved, and usually said just to fill in the blank. On average, 40-45% of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions, but only 8% are successful.

You can absolutely be one of those 8%, and here are a few tips:

What do you really want?

Strip it down to it’s most basic element. If you can name what you really want, you’re much closer to getting it. Beyond naming it, go into detail about why this goal is important to you. “I want to stop smoking because I want to be able to make it up a flight of stairs without feeling winded.” Health-related resolutions, especially weight loss, can be tricky, and not solely because it requires repetition, lasting change, discipline, and new habits. Our bodies and appearance are external representations of our emotional and mental health, and are therefore delicate subjects. Changing your health habits for the better requires a look at the lifestyle you have and the emotional needs that may have been neglected and are now asking for a little attention. If you’re looking to lose a few pounds because it’ll help you fit into those skinny jeans you’ve had in your closet for 7 months, any new workout routines and/or eating habits aren’t as likely to last. If you’re looking to become a healthier version of yourself so that it has practical application (taking up a new hobby/sport, feeling stronger, fewer diseases, less pain and soreness, releasing stress), you’ll be amazed at how new routines will fit into your life.

Make a resolution for you, not for anyone else

Nobody gets bonus points for a “better, more impressive New Year’s Resolution”. If you’re making your choices based on what you think other people expect from you, those choices will last until about February. You are far more likely to stick with your changes if they come from a deeper part of you. Understand, this doesn’t mean that other people’s influence can’t play a role; friends may want to spend more time with you because they genuinely enjoy your company; family members may want you to adopt healthier habits out of want for your well-being. Just remember that the person that will experience the most benefit from your resolutions will always be you.

Make a resolution that can actually be achieved

Sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

This is a crucial reason why so many resolutions fail– they couldn’t be achieved under almost any circumstances. This may be a hard truth for some, but in 365 days, it’s usually not possible to change what took decades to establish. And if you think about it, how often do you reach the end of the year wanting the same things you did at the beginning of it? Joseph Campbell, in his book “A Hero With A Thousand Faces”, touches on some of this subject; it’s what he terms “The Ultimate Boon”. The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step. A hero (you, in this case, because who wants to be the supporting actor in the story of their own life?) will often start their journey with one set of beliefs and one view of their world. Along the way, these must adapt as the hero meets new people and is placed in different situations. The hero can certainly get what’s desired, but because they have a better understanding of the true nature of their wants, or have discovered what will be more appropriate for them, that boon can be quite different from how it appeared at first. So don’t be surprised if your resolutions morph as the year progresses– as you change, your goals will change with you!

Set yourself up for success

So many things go into who we are as individuals: our families, our friends, our jobs, our coworkers, even our pets. Each one of these affects us on a daily basis. According to Jim Rohn (author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series), “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” This plays a huge role in our ability to follow through on our goals. Who are your five? Do they support you? Do they actively show you that they want the best for you? Will they be able to help you when needed, and will they be people you want to be around you when you’ve become a different and better version of yourself? This doesn’t mean that you have to radically alter your relationships, because the right people will make changes with you. But if you want to, say, lose 10 pounds, start associating yourself with people that have healthy eating habits or people that make exercise a priority. Their habits will be easy to mimic, even if they’re not 100% right for you. The important thing is that you have an example of what the final result looks like around you, showing you a.) that it can be done and b.) how you can alter their ideas to suit your desired outcome.

Make that resolution on a day that’s important to you

It may be January 1st. It may not. Just like the content of your resolutions, when you choose to start them should come from you. Of course ceremony and tradition are helpful when it comes to certain monumental moments, but often times, the biggest and most lasting changes to our lives happen when we choose not to wait anymore, summon our willpower, throw our caps over the wall, and just start doing it. And that could be any time during the year… even on a Tuesday.

Be safe! Be well! We’ll see you in 2011!

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