Research suggests that close to half of all Americans make some form of New Year’s resolution. Of that half, only eight percent actually achieve them with one third throwing in the towel before the end of January. If you are serious about your commitment this year you may be interested in tips that will help you join these elite few.
Studies have shown that your goals will be more likely to succeed if they are S.M.A.R.T. This acronym, first conceived in the early 1980s, stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. These goals not only define a clear path to success, they include a clear time frame in which to achieve them.
The first step towards achieving your goal is to clearly define what “it” is. You don’t just want to get in shape, you want to be able to do a 10-mile run by June. You don’t just want to overcome your fear of swimming, you want to implement desensitizing techniques a certain number of times per week so that you can enjoy the lake with your friends at camp this summer.
If you can measure your starting point and your goal, you can also track your progress along the way. These tracking measurements can be both a great source of motivation for you and a way to help you identify any plateaus you may have to work through.
Trying to make a major change too quickly can impede upon your daily routine so much that it feels like it has taken over your life. It may end up requiring great sacrifices not only from you but from your family as well. Don’t take on too many goals at one time if you plan to succeed at any of them. Turn colossal changes into smaller incremental goals. If
you focus on losing just 2 lbs per week you’ll be down 50 lbs by the summer.
Are you making this resolution for the right reasons? Many resolutions fail because they are not the right resolution. Are you trying to change for yourself or because someone
has made you feel like you need to change? If you try to change because of a degree of self-loathing, remorse or sudden obsession in the heat of a moment, your resolution is not likely to hold for very long. If your process involves considering what is really good for your life and working to surround yourself with people who can support your change, you are much more likely to succeed.
You must allow yourself enough time to reach your goal. In addition, having an end date gives you a deadline and creates a sense of urgency. When you formulate your resolution be sure to set up a timetable with numerous smaller intermediate goals along the way.
If your first attempt fails, don’t beat yourself up. Learn from it and try again. If you sneak a cigarette, miss a walk or shout at the kids one morning make a note of the triggers that caused this set back and learn a lesson from them. That is one of the basic principles of cognitive behavioral therapy. If you know that alcohol makes you crave cigarettes and oversleep the next day cut back on it. If you know the morning rush before school makes you shout then get up earlier or prepare things the night before to make it easier on you.
Perseverance is the key to success. Thomas Edison had once stated, “I haven’t failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Resolutions are about creating new habits. Plan on changing the rest of your life and not just the first few months of the new year.
Jeremy Skow, LMHC, MBA maintains a private practice in Garden City, NY. Contact him at 516-322-9133, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.mentalhealthcounselingny.com.