Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

Submitted by Carol A. Gooch, M.S., LPC, LCDC, LMFT

New Year’s Resolutions are made and broken every year. Usually this is because people set themselves up to fail by compiling a list of resolutions they probably will never keep. Surveys by the American Psychological Association say will power was the top reason people failed to keep their resolutions. Most people need more than will power to keep their resolutions. Keeping resolutions requires detailed plans and strategies when there are setbacks.

As a mental health professional, I suggest that if you are contemplating a behavior change, ask yourself the following questions: why do I want to change; is there anything preventing me from changing; what are some things that could help me make this change. Always know your readiness to change, your barriers to change and expect setbacks.

Research finds that some of the major resolutions are the following: stop smoking and/or drinking (alcohol), get organized, loss weight, exercise more, get out of debt and spend more time with family. All of these are wonderful resolutions, but you must set realistic goals for your resolutions and then break each goal into small, measurable steps with a time table. For example, if your resolution is to lose weight, you might decide not to eat sweets as one of the ways to lose weight. Instead of saying “I will never eat sweets again", you might say, “I will avoid having sweets everyday this week.” When you say “never’ and you slip up and eat sweets, you might feel like you failed and then stop trying. You can keep a food journal to record what you are eating and this will help you stay on track.

Plan ahead and make a list of resolutions. Review your list and adjust anything that may be too much of a stretch. It might be wise to limit your list to less than five resolutions so that you do not expect yourself to accomplish too many things.

Consider what kind of support you have from your family and friends and the amount of time you have to commit to your resolution. Consider anything else that might stand in your way of success.

Give yourself reasonable time to complete each resolution. Track your progress by keeping a journal. If your resolutions are long term, keep checking your list every three months to make adjustments as needed. Having measurable goals will help you be successful.

Reward yourself when you succeed. Keep trying if you have any setbacks. You can start over and make “New Year’s Resolutions” anytime of the year. Don’t let setbacks undermine your self confidence. Take a look at what happened to trigger the setback so you will know what you can do to avoid the triggers in the future.

Don’t be discouraged if results don’t come quickly for your resolutions. Behavioral change requires commitment. Experts say it takes about 21 days to form a new habit and about 6 months for the new habit to become a part of your daily life. So, keep trying and don’t give up. Have a Happy New Year.

Carol Gooch is the Founder & Executive Director of Montgomery County Association of Business Women.