What Resolutions?

So, the ball in Times Square dropped and everyone drank a little champagne or sparkling cider. Now that the holidays are over and 2014 has begun, we can sweep up the confetti, put away the party hats, and get back to a sense of peaceful order. Kids back to school, folks back to work, and all back to the daily routines.

resolutions 1But maybe you made a few New Year’s resolutions as 2013 was coming to a close. How are you doing on those transformational promises you made to yourself? If you’re doing great and you’ve already turned over a new leaf, pat yourself on the back – according to some University of Scranton research, only about 8% of people keep their resolutions, out of about 40% of Americans who make them come the New Year.

If you’ve already forgotten about your resolutions, don’t be discouraged. There are a few ways to maximize the likelihood of getting closer to your goals.

  1. Make sure your goals are reachable. It’s great to aspire to run a marathon in 2014. However, if you don’t even own sneakers and never run, you’re likely to fall short, leading to feelings of failure. Set a goal that is within your current capabilities, but that stretches you a little beyond your limit. For instance, “I currently exercise 1-2 days a week. Starting in January, I am going to push that to 3-4.”
  2. Prioritize. Let’s face it, you can’t do everything. Or if you can, perhaps you should focus on doing fewer things really well. Don’t spread yourself too thin when setting goals. Why have 10 resolutions when 2 really good ones would suffice?
  3. Be specific. You won’t know how to measure your success unless you are clear about what you are working toward. One of my goals is to drink more water, so I have a note on my desk at work that specifies how many bottles I want to drink a day.
  4. Hold yourself accountable. Tell someone else about your goals to increase your sense of responsibility. Even better, enlist a friend, spouse, or sibling in the resolution process. Perhaps you both want to run a 10K or eat meatless meals twice a week. Or maybe he wants to read a book a month and you want to unplug after 6PM, and can encourage each other. Either way, support from friends and family can be the winning ingredient.
  5. Track progress. Set a schedule for checking in and seeing how you are doing. If you planned to go to the gym 3 times a week, write it down in your phone or a journal. At the same time, set a date for you to review this goal. This is a chance for “feedback not failure.” If you check in every 2-4 weeks and are meeting your goals—super! See if you want to change anything, like maybe increase/change the exercise plan. If you are falling short of your goals, read the next tip.
  6. Re-evaluate. But don’t beat yourself up! It’s not constructive to berate yourself for not meeting a goal. If you had a fitness goal you are not meeting, ask yourself why. Maybe you have to start at setting a smaller goal that is more attainable so you can succeed and then gain momentum. For example, maybe getting to the gym 5 days a week is too much after work. Can you work out to a videotape at home for 2 of those days instead?
  7. Reward. Make sure that you give yourself positive feedback along the way when you are moving toward a goal. It’s really important to acknowledge your hard work. And if someone gives you a compliment—take it, and really appreciate it!

If you helped your kids set goals, use these tips to help and encourage them. It can also be encouraging for kids to hear how you set goals for yourself and how you plan to meet them. Support them along the way, and also don’t be afraid to share with them if you feel discouraged or have a setback. These are all teaching moments.

Happy New Year!!

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Rachel Busman, PsyD, of the Child Mind Institute, is a clinical psychologist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of anxiety and mood disorders in children and adolescents. Dr. Busman earned her doctoral degree from the University of Hartford’s Graduate Institute of Professional Psychology. She completed both her pre-doctoral internship and post doctoral fellowship at the Institute of Living in Hartford, Connecticut, specializing in the treatment of children and adolescents. Dr. Busman has been featured as a clinical expert on NBC’s TODAY Show, MSNBC and CNN and is a contributor for Parents.com.

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