New Year’s Resolutions

Photo by: Tony George

The New Year has arrived, and the ‘dog-days of winter’ are truly upon us.  For many, this is a difficult month to survive with sanity intact.  Bills from our holiday excesses begin to materialize, as does the extra layer of padding we’ve added from an abundance of good food.  In my humble opinion, January is probably the worst possible month in which to make resolutions we intend to keep, but it is a New Year’s tradition for roughly sixty-seven percent of the North American population.

In keeping with this time-honored custom of setting resolutions for the New Year, here are ten tips to help you keep those commitments with yourself and keep you on the road to success.

Plan ahead

Even if you are just considering New Year’s resolutions now, plan ahead before starting.  Plans or commitments we make with ourselves at the last minute or based on the way we are feeling at that particular moment rarely last, so give yourself a week to ‘psyche yourself up’ and insure your resolutions are what you really want for yourself.

Have a strategy

Sun Tzu wrote that battle without strategy is the slowest road to victory.  In our battle with ourselves to either overcome a bad habit or create new positive habits, it is a good idea to put some forethought into how we plan to combat roadblocks in our path to keeping our resolutions.  This can include such things as asking yourself what you can do to keep yourself busy when the urge for a cigarette tempts your resolve, or perhaps how you will motivate yourself to attend the Yoga class you signed up to for the New Year.

Pro’s and Con’s

Make a list in point form of the positive benefits and negative consequences for each of your resolutions and post them in a prominent spot – on the fridge, the bathroom mirror – wherever you can be reminded of your commitment to yourself and easily find it when you need to reaffirm the reasons why you chose this resolution to begin with.

Keep your goals realistic

The easiest way to fail in our promises to ourselves is to make our goals unattainable to begin with.  Let’s say you intend to lose fifty pounds by the spring as one of your New Year’s resolutions.  Is this a reasonable goal?  Is it a safe, attainable goal?  In this case, no it is not.  Planning to lose two to three pounds a week is not only safer for your physical health, but it offers short term results to keep you motivated.  Keep your goals or resolutions fair and honest, and remember you will have days when your motivation will seem to all but disappear in the face of your stressors and bustle.

Keep track and set milestones

In some way, even if it means red “X’s” on a calendar, make yourself a visual record of your progress and post it in an often visited spot in your home.  Take your resolutions and break them down into milestones you can gain strength and positive reinforcement from as you reach these milestones you are creating.  Get creative!  Resolutions are in essence a battle cry that ignites a small war within us, and it takes creative solutions to win the battle.

Have a Hero cookie!

Reward yourself for reaching your milestones.  For example, if your intent was to attend exercise class three times a week from January forward and you went three times as you had resolved this week; treat yourself in some way to reinforce the positive response.  Be careful – this does not mean you go the largest buffet in town and celebrate by downing four plates of food and dessert.

Stick to it

The old saying is that it takes thirty days to make a habit and thirty days to break one too.  In reality, it is a little less – and a little more…Within twenty-one to twenty-three days of beginning a new activity or lifestyle change it becomes a habit.  It takes a full six months for this new habit to become an integrated part of your personality.  It is at this point that the activity or lifestyle change ceases to be a conscious discipline and becomes a natural part of who you are.

Failure is not an option

There is a good chance that we will all slip up more than a few times in our quest to make our New Year’s resolutions an integral part of our lives for 2011.  Don’t beat yourself up over it when it happens!  Instead, look at the triggers that caused the slip-up and modify your response to them so you will be prepared for the next time a similar stressor appears.  We are only human after all.

Keep trying

Making a resolution to better ourselves mentally, spiritually, or in physical health need not occur only at the New Year.  You can make these pacts or commitments with yourself at any time.  If January proves to be too difficult a month to stay focused on your resolutions, plan your own “New Year’s” for February instead and begin again.

Positive reinforcement

Don’t keep your resolution a secret. Let your friends and family know your intent and your goals for better health or whatever the case may be and bring them into your support circle.  If at all possible, sharing the same resolution with a close friend will give you active support and even more motivation to achieve your goals.

May your New Year be a happy, joyful and peaceful one – filled with success at a deep personal level that brings contentment of mind, body, and Spirit.  Have a Yoga-filled New Year!

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