Being Reasonable with New Year’s Resolutions

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Joseph Halphen PA-C
Lake After Hours Central
    Approximately forty-four percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year. 
  The top ten resolutions are to stop smoking, lose weight, enjoy life more/manage stress, quit drinking, be better organized, learn new things/get a better job, get out of debt, spend more time with family, help people, and save money
    In one recent survey, only fifteen percent of those who made resolutions have kept them. Other studies have presented even more startling numbers, claiming a resolution success rate of only eight percent. I even found one researcher claiming only three percent of resolutions survive the first month of the year. The statistics get even worse for people who follow self-help advice promising to improve resolution-keeping through visualization, for example, hanging a pair of jeans you would like to fit on your door or keeping a photograph of a vacation spot you’d like to afford on your dresser, or through sheer willpower. 
    The tradition of the New Year's Resolutions goes all the way back to 153 B.C. Janus, a mythical king of early Rome was placed at the head of the calendar. With two faces, Janus could look back on past events and forward to the future. Janus became the ancient symbol for resolutions and many Romans looked for forgiveness from their enemies and also exchanged gifts before the beginning of each year.
    How can you increase your chances of sticking to your resolution? Fortunately, research has revealed the success strategies of those who have been successful with resolutions.
1. Start with realistic goals
    Many people make resolutions that are so ambitious; they have little hope of achieving them. Although such ambitious goals can sometimes be motivating and inspirational, they are more often daunting and overwhelming. The result: people give up because they think that “there’s no way to get there from here.” For example, obese people typically set goals of losing three times more than they have typically lost in prior weight loss efforts.
2. Supplement your annual “resolution” with short-term goals
    A resolution to lose 100 pounds is not only unrealistic, but it is too long-term a goal to be truly motivating. Odds are you’ll find yourself sitting around for 9 or 10 months taking little action, living in denial, or perhaps forgetting about your resolution altogether.  
    Try supplementing your annual goals with monthly, or even weekly, goals. Although it’s good to a have a long-term vision of what you want to accomplish, research shows that more short-term goals lead to better performance, greater confidence, enhanced persistence, and more satisfaction with life than longer-term goals.
3. Create plans for success
Short-term goals enhance performance because people work harder as deadlines approach, and because they spur the process of making plans for success.
    Let’s face it: most people who resolve to lose weight or start exercising don’t really map out strategies for accomplishing their goals. They may buy a diet book or join the gym, but that’s about it. This explains why millions of diet books are sold, yet we still have an obesity epidemic, and health clubs are overflowing in January but back to normal by March.
    So if you are resolving to lose weight, set some goals to accomplish in the first few weeks of January, and map out clear plans and strategies for accomplishing them. Joining a gym is great, but you are more likely to actually go to the gym if you make plans to exercise with a workout partner, or commit to twice-a-week workouts with a trainer.
4. Create a plan for slips and setbacks
    A strategy for setbacks is just as important as a strategy for success. People who maintain their New Year’s resolutions for at least two years report an average of 14 setbacks during that time.
    The key, of course, is rebounding from setbacks, rather than letting them snowball into full-blown relapses. First, try to avoid the all-or-none thinking that triggers the snowball effect. Then, create a “setback plan” that you will enact at the first sign of a slip.
    Now you’ve read these tips, you are in a great position to consider the best ways to improve your life this New Year. Your happiness is worth the time and effort, so get started and good luck!

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