Resolving Resolutions in a New Way

Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist Dr. Liz helps us off on the right footing.


Just the fact that it’s January 2nd is enough to throw in the towel for some of us if we haven’t remained perfect in our efforts to succeed thus far. Sure-fire ingredients for setting ourselves up to fail our resolutions are:

1) Not thinking about resolutions until the last minute.

2) Making resolutions New Year’s Eve based on what’s bothering me or what’s on my mind at that time.

3) Framing resolutions as absolutes, such as, “I will never do ____ again!”

Deciding to revisit a past resolution also sets us up for further frustration and disappointment. So the first step is to choose something new or approach it in a new way.

Plan & Prepare to Succeed

The keys to success are in the planning and preparing. Do not make a New Year’s Resolution unless you are ready. You can make resolutions anytime in the year; not just in January. Make them anytime – just be ready!

The key to making a successful resolution in one’s confidence that he or she can make the behavior change. If we’re not absolutely sure that we can be successful than we’re not going to be. But let’s not use that as our excuse for giving up. Consider making a resolution to “set a specific start date” for the behavior you want to increase or eliminate.

Resolve to Set a Start Date

Then use the intervening time to get your preparations in order and develop a concrete plan. Perhaps your new start date is February 1st or March 15th. The start date is not important but the set up is.

So if one’s goal to lose weight the planning and preparing would be to
stock the kitchen with healthy foods and dispose of the foods that undermine. Also, get appropriate measuring cups and spoons for portion control and/or a kitchen scale to weigh food and get a notebook so you can track what you eat. Get a baseline on your own scale and measurements so you know a starting point. People who are successful with their goals track their progress by charting and recording their new behavior changes.

Write Down Specific Measurable Goals

And it’s best if the goal is realistic. It’s not realistic to lose 20 pounds in a month or go from a sedentary lifestyle to daily workouts at the gym. Consider what one new behavior you can make meal-by-meal and day-by-day instead of trying to make numerous changes all at one time.

Consider signing up for a health or exercise-focused education course. Studies show that participants who invest in even a four-week course, are those who remain more active and keep healthy dietary changes far after the course ends.

We often hear that if we fail to plan, we plan to fail. But expect that there will be the inevitable slips. The thought that we can “willpower” ourselves into achieving a goal is a myth. It’s key to have a plan for getting back on track and not view a slip as a complete failure.

Use “Slips” to Strengthen Resolve

Let the slips teach you and further strengthen your resolve. Notice how your body feels when you eat excess amounts of foods that are not healthy and let THOSE feelings motivate and build determination. Notice the barriers that were in your way and make the necessary adjustment to our specific plan.

Men Get Real, Women Get Support

Our very natures can sometimes trip us up. If a man tends to adopt a more macho attitude and have unrealistic expectations, simple and specific goals will especially help him achieve better results. For example, his specific goal would be to “lose a pound a week” versus a general goal “to lose weight.”

As women, we are often reluctant to tell others about our goals, and yet we are the ones who most benefit from the social support provided by family and friends once we make our goals known. So start sharing these resolutions with those who you KNOW will support you.

Finally, utilize your brain to get the most from our imaginations and efforts as possible. Let’s stop living our lives on auto-pilot and stop being ruled by our genes.
Be like an athlete who uses visualization techniques – they imagine hitting the ball in a certain way. Keep your eyes on the prize by mentally honing in on how it would look, sound, and feel if you were living your goal. The nervous system can’t tell the difference between well-imagined thoughts and reality. Cut out pictures, create “treasure maps”, and visualize what you want to be and you’ll start re-grouping your neurological pathways.

Bottom line for successful resolutions?

1) Create a strong commitment to make specific changes.

2) Prepare coping strategies for setbacks.

3) Keep track of your progress. The more monitoring you do, the better you will do!

Remember, resolutions are a process, not a one-time effort. Create new behaviors for a lifetime not for just 2008.


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