Resolution time is here again. This is the time of year when so many of us start out with great intentions to transform ourselves and our lives only to find ourselves falling back on old habits and behavior patterns. Here are some tips for making this year’s resolutions stick.
- Define your goals. The more general the goal the harder it is to manifest. Be as specific as possible. Refine diffuse goals like “getting healthier” and “being a better parent” into more concrete actions like adding a daily serving of vegetables to your diet or reserving an hour a week to spend some quality time with each child.
- Start small. People often bite off much more than they can chew and then get discouraged when their initial plans fail. By focusing on small, easily obtainable goals we are more likely to experience immediate success that will help us stick with our longer-term goals.
- Focus on one goal at a time. Research suggests that willpower is a limited commodity that can become quickly depleted when we try to make too many changes at once.
- Turn your “shoulds” into “wants.” Oftentimes, we set goals based on what we think we should do, rather than what we truly want. Yet, we are far more motivated to achieve our goals when we feel a sense of personal investment. When setting a goal ask yourself, why do I want this? What’s in it for me? What do will I gain from making these changes in my life? You can even create a list of positive benefits to help you stay focused when your will power wanes or when you find yourself settling back into old behavioral patterns.
- Use your imagination. Many of us can easily think of reasons why our plans will fail. These negative thoughts keep our attention focused on obstacles rather than the pathway to success. To counter this tendency try imagining that you have already reached your goals. You can also visualize yourself completing each of the steps you will take to get there. Notice any resistance that comes up as this may help you identify any real or imagined obstacles to achieving your goals.
- Identify conflicting goals and limiting beliefs. Perhaps you want to lose weight but don’t want to stop eating the foods that you love. Or you want to change jobs but feel you are too old to compete in the marketplace. Once we have identified what is limiting us we can work towards resolution. Sometimes it is as simple as reframing, such as remembering that age brings maturity, wisdom, social connections and experience qualities that are definite assets on any job search. Other times we may need to adjust our plans such as choosing a weight loss strategy that allows for small portions of your favorite foods.
- Shine a light on your unconscious mind. Often times the biggest obstacles to change lie just beyond the boundaries of consciousness. A trained psychotherapist can help you to begin to identify unconscious beliefs and behavior patterns that may be getting in the way of your reaching your goals.
Hang in there! Life is all about trail and error. Rather than thinking of setbacks as “failures,” treat them as opportunities to learn and to grow.