Every year on Jan. 1, people all around the world vow to change their life through what we call New Year’s resolutions. Whether we resolve to eat healthier, go to the gym, lose weight, get that degree, or something else, most of us fail at these attempts to change within a few short months — sometimes even weeks or days.
So, what can we do to change our physical and/or mental health to make our resolutions stick?
Your goal must be something you want and need — not what other people think you want or need. It has to be something important to you. You have to “buy into it” to really make a change.
Design a plan for achieving your goals by making necessary changes. Writing down your goal(s), along with both your plan to achieve it and a schedule of when you are going to complete certain tasks, can be helpful. Keep it someplace where you can glance at it daily or weekly to see if you are on track.
Don’t set yourself up for failure with unachievable goals. Be realistic. Change is a gradual process. Set small, short-term goals. If you want to get that degree, start off with one class in a subject you would enjoy.
Set goals you can measure. That way you can track your success along the way. For example, if you want to lose 50 pounds within a year, plan to lose four pounds a month. Track your incremental success on a calendar or chart so you can see how much progress you have made.
Define what success would look like as you work towards your goal. Celebrate small successes along the way. Readjust your plan if you find that your initial plan is not working or you are not enjoying the process. Ask yourself: What do I want to do? Where do I want to go? What do I want to see? With whom do I want to spend more time? What do I want to stop doing? What is missing in my life? And finally: What’s stopping me? Answer these questions, and you will be on your way to making a change and achieving that goal.
These are your plans, your goals, your changes, your New Year’s resolutions. Only you can make change happen for yourself.
PAULINE DWYER, LICSW, works in case management at Jewish Collaborative Services, in Providence.