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Why New Year's resolutions usually fail
Here we go again, following that age old ritual of setting our New Year's resolutions- then losing the will and/or interest in them by February. Why do our resolutions fail when we start out with great intentions, positive energy and the hope that comes with the chance to begin anew? The answer is both simple and complicated because we all have a fairly good idea of what we are doing wrong, yet don't really want to make the small changes that are needed for success. That is where it gets complicated because the changes are simple, but doing something in a different way requires a shifting in both thought and behavior and often demands that we move outside of our comfort zone.
The following are "classic" approaches to setting New Year's resolutions that too often end in failure and abandonment. See if you recognize your own behavior in them.
* Choosing goals that come from a belief that this is what we "should" do, not what we "want" to do
* Not building in practical and realistic incentives right from the start
* Expecting too much, too fast
* Trying to make changes armed only with promises and no clear plan
* Holding onto an all or nothing mentality that sabotages your ability to get back on the horse after a hard fall
Let's take these same approaches and modify them to form a strategy that offers a good chance of success.
* Reflect on what is missing or what you want to change in your life- and come up with only one or two goals that address these wants.
* When you formulate your goals, think about what you will need each day in order to stay on track. Small rewards delivered frequently help us to get through the longer haul that many changes often require.
* Give yourself a break, literally and figuratively. Don't measure progress as something that only comes when you have already achieved something large. Instead, focus on your ability to be consistent for another day, to stay on track even a little on a difficult day, and/or to follow through with even a small objective on a bad day.
* It is a mistake to think of success as something that comes only as a result of willpower. We can't will ourselves to do something that we really don't want, are afraid of, or don't have the necessary tools to achieve. Write down your goal (s), and put aside a specific time to work on them each day. This may require only a few minutes at a time, or you may need to block out an hour. When you follow through, check off your progress and give yourself that necessary reinforcement. You earned it.
* Expect that you will have good days and bad ones. All is not lost when you miss a step or take one backwards. Staying the course is good enough on those tough days. By giving yourself a break and telling yourself that you can do it even when doubt and negative thoughts try to take over--you will be able to get back up and take the next step forward. Every journey is achieved by taking one step at a time.
Read these over, think about how you can apply them to your life--and add the resolution to treat yourself with the same consideration and kindness that you would offer to a friend. Armed with these new approaches and a can-do attitude, you can change your luck and change your life in 2010.
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Toni Coleman, LCSW
© Copyright 2008 Antoinette Coleman. All rights reserved.
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