Weekly column in the Washington Times Communities by Laurie Edwards-Tate
In the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, we start getting serious about New Year’s resolutions. Nearly half of all Americans will make a New Year’s resolution.
Resolutions have a long tradition. Ancient Romans including Julias Caesar offered resolutions of good conduct to the God Janus, the god of beginnings and doorways whose two faces look both backwards and forwards. The month of January is named after him. Ever since these times, people have used the beginning of a new year and the prospect of a clean slate to seize a new opportunity.
The most popular resolutions today involve our personal health: quitting smoking, losing weight, and exercising more. Improving family relationships or spending more time with family is another popular category. Saving money, making more money, and other financial goals rounds off the top three most popular categories.
Do we set ourselves up for failure when we make resolutions? How many of us are still going to the gym or eating healthfully by Valentine’s Day? Surprisingly, more than you might believe.
Dr. John Norcross, a Distinguished University Fellow and Professor of Psychology at the University of Scranton (PA), was curious how many people were successful in sticking to their resolutions. He said he was tired of people saying that resolutions didn’t work and no one should bother to try them. He tracked people who made resolutions and people who had the same types of goals but who didn’t make resolutions.
The good news is that the glass is half full. Forty-six percent of the people who made resolutions were still successful after six months. Only four percent of those who hadn’t stated a resolution were successful after six months. So while there are people who fail, many others succeed. You can be one of them.
So it’s worth taking your resolution seriously and giving yourself the best possible chance of success. What should you do to become part of the 46 percent? Experts suggest several tips:
- Make your goals realistic and attainable. Losing 50 pounds is admirable, but it may make more sense to strive for 20 pounds. Going to the gym every single day sounds great, but shooting for three days a week is something you have a better chance of sticking with.
- Set both short-term and long-term goals. Aim for losing five pounds in the first month toward your 20-pound weight loss. Achieving small near-term goals are shown to boost confidence and help people stick with their program. People also work harder when deadlines loom.
- Identify specific steps in your plan to achieve your goal. Using the weight-loss example, resolve to change specific habits, such as giving up sugary sodas in favor of sparkling water and unsweetened iced tea. Substitute crispbreads for chips. Plan to walk three days a week.
- State your intentions publicly, and enlist support. You are much more likely to stick to your plan to go to the gym if you plan to exercise with a friend, or commit to a trainer. Even buying a pedometer to count your steps daily can help.
- Plan what you will do if you slip. Setbacks are inevitable, but they don’t need to derail your efforts. When you have one, identify the reasons and the triggers, and consider what you can do to avoid it happening again. Did you engage in mindless eating watching football on TV at a friend’s house? Suggest other activities, or contribute healthier food choices.
- Celebrate your successes, and surround yourself with others who are on the road to success.
If you would like to start on your resolution here and now, go for it by stating your intentions in the comments section. What do you resolve to achieve in 2012?
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!