Yes Virginia, Resolutions Can Work

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 | Around Town, Uncategorized

Sure they sound great (especially after a few glasses of champagne), but how many New Year’s resolutions ever make it past January’s elimination round before getting booted off the island? Whether shedding pounds, saving money or stopping smoking, the epic proportions and daunting discipline we attach to our perennial ambitions doom most from the start. Starting with the realization that change is possible, read on for tips on sticking with that resolution and seeing a new you in 2009.

Be Specific, Be Realistic
You may want to lose weight, but unless you set a specific goal (shedding five pounds a month, for instance) the odds are against you. By establishing a tangible benchmark, you’re preparing your mind for action and entering what behavioral psychologists call a “contemplative” stage of change (having a desire to change and identifying potential roadblocks).

Start Planning
Make your goal visible. Get a calendar to cross off how many days you’ve gone without a smoke or start a journal to track your weight loss. Recruit the support of family and friends and research how others have successfully made similar changes. The preparation stage is essential to cementing your resolution and increasing your chances for success.

Take Action!
You’ve bought new running shoes, started a savings account or stocked up on nicotine substitutes. Now it’s time to put them to use! Track your progress daily and reward yourself with each eclipsed milestone. By reinforcing your goals during this action stage, you’re reaffirming your objective and physically affecting change.

Practice Makes Perfect
It takes approximately 21-30 days for a repeated action to become a habit. If you’ve made a point of jogging everyday after work, after a month that action should feel normal. That’s not to say you’re in the clear. Many psychologists agree that the maintenance stage is often the most difficult. The biggest pitfall is taking your success for granted by neglecting your plan or allowing the occasional exception. Keep in mind that behavioral changes like healthy eating, nonsmoking and budgeting are lifelong objectives. Fortunately, like the saying goes, “practice makes perfect.”