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Some tips for sticking to your resolutions

new year's resolutions

As January winds down, many folks will start reflecting back on the resolutions they made and whether or not they have made any successful changes to their lives. As so many of us can relate, change is hard. Many resolutions falter within weeks or months whether we start them in January or July. But there is a secret to successful resolutions.

Here’s the secret: Only make a small change!

You may be thinking some aspect of your life needs a dramatic overhaul, but drastic changes and goals rarely succeed. If you can make several small changes that actually persist, these small changes add up to a new and consistent lifestyle!

Here’s how it’s done:

1. Set the bar low as you start out. If you want to start working out set a goal of only going once or twice a week. If you want to cut back on caffeine, pick one time of day that you’ll start skipping your java hit. If you want to improve your diet, try adding a single fruit or vegetable a day, or maybe packing a lunch once a week.

Make your initial goal one that is very easy to accomplish without rearranging your entire life. Starting with success and then building onto this success gets you pumped up about keeping up the positive change.

2. Pay attention to your calendar. Set a start date for your new goal, but be mindful if this is the right time for this particular goal. If you have a major project deadline approaching at work this may not be the right time to cut back on your vanilla lattes.

Also, before you start a new goal, set a date to pause and reflect back on this goal. This can be anywhere from two to six weeks. After about six weeks of success most changes have now become a permanent routine. Setting a date to reflect on your goal, though, helps you decide if this is a good goal to work on currently and whether you hit upon any unforeseen hurdles.

You might also want to set up mini-rewards for yourself for accomplishing your goals. If you skipped that 3 p.m. pop every day for a week, you can use the money you saved to pay for rental ice skates at Wichita Ice Center during an ice skating date with your best friend or significant other!

3. Jump your hurdles now! Write a list of all the things that will potentially disrupt your ability to complete your goal before you start. Then come up with a plan to overcome these hurdles now. For instance, if you plan to start working out you may need to get a membership to a gym, or you need a new pair of workout shoes.

Set a deadline to get these tasks done sooner rather than later. Maybe you are more worried about motivation, so consider inviting a friend to either participate in your goal or who will check in with you about your progress. Maybe finding time to workout means you have to be a little more creative with your schedule and you could enroll your children in an after-school activity so you have a chance to exercise after work before you have to pick them up that evening. Foresight can definitely mean the difference between triumph and failure!

4. Consider making a contract. Use a friend or even your physician to help you set up your plan, identify and overcome hurdles, and to hold yourself accountable to with each of your deadlines. Your physician will be thrilled to know you are choosing a goal to help yourself be physically, mentally or even spiritually healthier and they will want to help.

Consider writing down your goal and deadlines and even rewards, then sign this contract and leave a copy with your physician while you post a copy somewhere helpful at your own home or office.

5. Lastly, setbacks are normal but should never stop you! There will be unforeseen hurdles or life events that will get in the way. Sometimes even small goals need to be tweaked and made even smaller. The point is to never stop moving forward! You CAN be a Better You, and setting yourself up for success with small, attainable goals will eventually add up until you are the person you envisioned!

For 2014 make a list of four to five moderate goals and rank them in order of importance. Start with the first goal and use the above steps to make a plan. Once you have successfully completed that goal (using a series of small steps to eventually get there!), go to the next goal and start the process again. By the time 2015 arrives you will look back on the past year as one of true change and empowerment!

About Amy Seery MD

Amy Seery, MD, is a pediatrician with Via Christi Clinic and a faculty member of the Via Christi Family Medicine Residency program.