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Making New Year’s Resolutions You Can Keep

For years many of us have made noble resolutions for ourselves and have gotten off to a good start, only to go back to old habits within a few months.  We can feel stress and guilt from our failure to keep our resolve. After that it is easy to view New Year’s Eve as simply a time to “party” by getting drunk as a skunk — in order to forget all our troubles (and failed resolutions) of the past and to wipe out all thought of new resolutions and the challenges we face in the upcoming year.

New Year’s Is When We Are Most Likely To Take Stock Of Our Lives

Traditionally, New Year’s is the kind of landmark that makes people step back and look at their lives and think about the things they want to change or improve upon. That’s when we make resolutions to loose weight, to become a better listener, to find work we truly love, to treat ourselves to some alone time, or to take steps to make a life-long dream come true. But what happens to the resolve behind our resolutions? Why do we let our resolutions fizzle out?

Does It Make Any Sense To Make New Year’s Resolutions?

If we haven’t been able to stick to our resolutions in the past, does it make any sense to make new resolutions for next year? Why set ourselves up for failure again? Why not just “go with the flow” and save ourselves from not being disappointed in ourselves? But ask yourself, “Why did I make a resolution in the first place?” Even if it was because “it’s the thing to do,” you picked out the resolution you wanted to make for yourself.  Could it be that you wanted to make your life better in some way? That’s a good thing. But if it’s a good thing, why is it so hard to stick to your resolutions?

A resolution is a promise to yourself. When you make a resolution, you are making a promise to yourself. You are promising to follow a certain course of action in the future – usually a course of action you have not been taking in the past.

Keeping a resolution takes motivation and effort. Since most resolutions entail taking actions you are not used to taking, you have to form new habits. You have to catch yourself practicing your old habits and re-direct your efforts toward keeping your promise to yourself. If you are used to a sedentary life with lots of munchies, and you have made a resolution to energize yourself and loose weight, you will have to schedule some time each day to plan what (and how much) food would be good for you to eat and what kind (and how much) activity would be fun for you to do.  Then when that time comes around, you will need to hop up from that couch or chair to keep your promise to yourself.

What Is The Secret To Being True To Your Resolutions?

Sticking to your resolutions depends on how you treat yourself. You can prod yourself with the hot poker stick of fear, guilt or worry about what other people think.  Or you can enthuse yourself with the thought of achieving one of your most important values. Think about it. What would work best for you? Telling yourself you’re no good if you don’t exercise and loose weight or telling yourself how much more you will enjoy your life once you become slimmer and healthier?  Which approach just adds another burden to your life, and which approach offers you a real value? If you base your resolutions on achieving your most important values and most cherished dreams, you will find it very rewarding to stick to your resolutions. But if you base your resolutions on your fear of the guilt you will feel if you don’t fulfill someone else’s ideas of what you should do, your resolutions will have no sticking power.

Sticking to your resolutions depends on planning specific steps to carry out your resolution. Just saying, “I will lose weight,” without a plan to find out what favorite foods you can still eat and in what amounts, without a plan to shop to have those foods on hand, and without a plan to explore what kind of exercise would be fun, exploring a fun setting for you to exercise in, or fun people for you to exercise with, would doom your resolution to failure. For me, I find I like variety in my exercise. I walk the stairs to music in the morning and I walk my dogs at a fast clip in the afternoons. On the weekend I do my all-time favorite exercise: I go dancing!

Sticking to your resolutions depends on experiencing the rewards. My exercise makes me feel good about myself and more energized throughout the day. This reward motivates me to do the same thing the next day. I know I can change the kind of exercise I do…I just need to do something to get my metabolism dancing each day. And that makes me feel ALIVE. And feeling alive helps me strive for the things that are important to me for my life. You will find that being true to one resolution spurs you on to be true to another resolution and your motivation multiplies as you keep your New Year’s promises to yourself. Your self-respect grows, and your confidence grows. YOU grow, and you improve in the direction of your choice. And the next time New Year’s comes around, instead of turning to partying for inebriation, you will find yourself partying out of celebration of your life and the lives of your loved ones.

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