Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Make Resolutions that You Can Keep

If you find yourself making some of the very same resolutions that you've made in past years put down your pen. When a resolve to change something becomes an annual plea, it's not you but the resolution that needs changing. Maybe it's not something you really want to do but feel you should ("I will stop drinking coffee" or "I will run for an hour every morning.") Ask yourself what's the motivating force behind your resolution and then see if there's a more palatable way to achieve it. For example, if you want to reduce your caffeine intake but love the taste of coffee, initially try switching to half-caf coffee in the morning. And if the reason behind running everyday is to get in better physical shape, consider alternatives such as yoga or swimming that might be more palatable. Uncovering paths of lesser resistance can help you to reach your underlying goal.

More commonly, we make resolutions that are too broad or abstract to be of use. Take the popular resolution "I will lose weight." Research shows that most people abandon this particular resolution before February. Goals can be great motivators if they are specific and measurable, providing the momentum that comes from incremental gains. If you set a goal to lose 1 lb. each week for the first four months and you weigh yourself weekly (not daily) you may find that the lost a pound provides a great incentive to keep going.

This brings us to resolutions' worst enemy, reality. It's important that you are honest with yourself as to how realistic a given goal is. Using the examples above, you could ask yourself how realistic is it to quit caffeine completely during the winter when you already have trouble waking up in the dark or, if you are a new mother with an erratic sleeping schedule, is an hour of intense exercise feasible? This isn't to say that you should abandon the desire to improve your health, only that by making these goals more realistic and tangible that they are more likely to succeed. After all, a small step toward your ultimate goal is more likely to lead to another. Better to tiptoe forward than to jump in place.


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