Thursday, December 20, 2007

Creating Realistic New Year's Resolutions

So you’ve decided that you want to make a New Year’s Resolution or two. What is a New Year’s Resolution? A New Year’s Resolution can be defined as a commitment made by an individual or group to a project or habit; which often involves changes in lifestyle to implement. A recent survey conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation for Whole Foods Market found that more than 75% of Americans would prefer to adopt long-term life-style changes as opposed to traditional resolutions. Building on my previous post on New Year’s Resolution categories, I thought that I would describe how to create realistic New Year’s Resolutions.

Why is it that most New Year’s Resolutions fail? There are a variety of reasons why resolutions/goals fail but many can be attributed to the creation of the resolution itself. Many of the resolutions that people have made aren’t SMART. So before going into how to create realistic New Year’s Resolutions, I thought that I should elaborate a little further on SMART. SMART is an acronym used to create better achievable goals. Your goal(s)/resolution(s) should fit all of the criteria below:

S – specific/stretching (challenging), well defined, and clear
M – measurable/meaningful/motivating. How can you determine if you have reached it and progress that you have made towards your stated goal?
A – achievable/attainable/actionable
R – realistic/reasonable/results oriented
T – timely/tangible/trackable

Creating Your Realistic New Year’s Resolutions

Now let’s get started…

• Think about and write down anything that you’d like to change about your life. You can start a list and think about it over the course of a few days to capture other ideas.
• Review your list and remove anything resolutions that are terribly unrealistic. If one of your resolutions isn’t very realistic, you can still keep it but you must remember how unlikely it is that you won’t achieve it and how demotivating such a resolution might be to achieving your other resolutions. You don’t want to build in failure and quit all your resolutions, because you didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize.
• Look for incompatible resolutions. It might not be the best idea to lose weight and quit smoking at the same time. People often gain weight when they quit smoking, so you’re more likely to succeed if you choose one and then you can choose the other at a later time when you don’t have conflicting resolutions.
• Review your list and remove or modify any resolutions that aren’t SMART. Vague resolutions should be more defined. I want to lose weight could become I want to lose 10 pounds by June. Breakdown large resolutions into smaller achievable goals.
• Create alternatives to the behavior or habit that you would like to change. If you smoke to relax, you might try to find something else that you can do to help you relax as an alternative.
• Go for lifestyle changes whenever possible. Often a behavior that you want to change or get rid of is the byproduct of something else. Some people go shopping when they’re depressed while others turn to alcohol or eating. If you understand why you do something, you have a better chance of stopping it at the source. While a crash diet might help you lose weight fast, your loss isn’t likely to be permanent if you immediately go back to your old eating habits. That is why some many people on “diets” gain back their loss and then some. If you resolve to change your unhealthy eating habits instead of purely the quick weight loss you’re more likely to keep the weight off long-term.
• As part of SMART, you’ll want to create resolutions that motivate you. Don’t create resolutions for someone else, unless that is the motivation that you need to succeed at your resolution. Most people don’t have long-term motivation in impressing others. You’ll need a resolution that you want because you’re the person that is going to have to do it and live with the consequences.
• Define your resolution differently. If you have tried a particular resolution without success more than once, you might need to come up with a different approach. Many people are turned off by the terms “diet” and “budget”. Look for more empowering words to substitute in your resolutions or change the meaning of the work or resolution. If diet means a highly restrictive set of rules applied to your daily food intake that leaves your feeling hungry and unsatisfied, how likely are you to be motivated to keep your resolution?
• Limit the number and types or resolutions that you make. Build success into your resolutions. You can create short-term, intermediate, and long-term resolutions, so that success in the shorter term ones can motivate you to achieve the longer term ones. If you have too many resolutions, you can be unfocused and fail to achieve few, if any, of them.
• Join a supportive group or network. A lot of people can lose weight because of the support and encouragement that they find in attending Weight Watchers meetings. In addition to local support groups there are a variety of groups that you can join online. 43Things is type of social networking site where a site where people create a list of their goals and give advice and support to each other.
• Tell your family, friends, and co-workers about your resolutions. This builds in accountability, making it harder to drop your resolutions because of the shame factor. You’ll want to be careful about this one because there are a lot of negative people that want to drag you down with them.
• Be flexible and patient. Life happens and something might happen that makes it hard (if not impossible) to complete your resolution(s), but don’t give up so easily. If you find yourself sliding in your resolution, you might need to review it, modify it, and start again with renewed motivation. In losing weight, many people get off to a good start and then if they reach a plateau, they become demotivated and quit.
• You can create a New Year’s Resolution any day of the year, not just at New Year’s Day. If you can have Christmas in July, why not a New Year’s Resolution in March, August, or October?

Good luck with your New Year’s resolutions. Remember to keep them SMART!

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