Four Ways to Turn Resolutions into Realities
By: Amy Maricle
Why Do Resolutions So Often Fail?
Some people find New Year’s resolutions a helpful way to focus on changes, but for many of us they are an exercise in humility and failure. Forget big, sweeping changes, the January 1st commitment, and resolving to do things you should do. If you are looking to make changes in the new year, but don’t care for New Year’s resolutions, read on.
Make Small, Manageable Goals:
- What changes do you really want to make? Forget the “shoulds.”
- Know that you can make change happen RIGHT NOW. If you have an impulse to make a healthy choice, just do it!
- Commit to changes one step at a time. If a change feels good, commit to trying it once more, and so on.
- Reward yourself. Look for ways to reward your hard work. Habits form when we get an enjoyable reward for doing something. Join a club or organization that supports your new habit, give yourself new workout gear, talk with a friend who encourages you, or designate a “dessert day” that you can look forward to all week while you carefully watch what you eat.
Here are two of the successful changes I made in 2013:
1. I opened a private practice, which was incredibly scary for me. I have never thought of myself as a business person, and I love people, so working in a “private” practice seemed daunting. But part of me really liked the idea, so I told myself I could try it, and if I did not like it, or it didn’t work out for any reason, that would be okay. I knew I could find a new job, so I had a backup plan, which made me feel secure enough to take the leap.
My practice has increased exponentially since I opened it in March of last year, and I have been able to do some amazing art therapy with clients who inspire me with their ability to make changes and take risks. Partnering with them to meet their goals has been incredibly satisfying. Part of the key to my success has been having a team of mentors and peers who can teach me about business while also supporting me as I face new challenges and find success.
2. I ran my first half marathon. Previous to this year, I faithfully ran 3 miles a couple of times a week to stay in shape. I didn’t join a running club because I wanted to run a particular race or increase my speed, I just wanted the camaraderie of running with others. However, I soon discovered that in order to keep up, I had to run longer and faster than ever before. Because the reward was companionship, this felt like an enjoyable challenge. As I improved, I realized that if I could run 10 miles, I could run 13.1, and I ran my first half marathon in 2013.
Why It Worked for Me
Letting myself commit to changes incrementally was important. Too much pressure makes me under-perform rather than over-perform. Being really focused on my needs and what makes me feel good has helped me to reach my potential, and continue to raise the bar in a way that feels measurable and attainable. I have made sure to get a lot of support so that when I hit roadblocks, experienced people are there to guide me.
Here’s to a 2014 filled with changes that help you live happier, healthier, and smarter.
Under what conditions do you have the most success making changes? Do you hate New Year’s Resolutions? Love them? Why? What’s the best change, large or small that you made last year? Tell us about it in the comments section.
Need More Guidance?
If you find that you need some guidance in discerning how to make changes, individual therapy or coaching may help. Contact a therapist or a coach for information about setting and meeting your goals.
DISCLAIMER: This information is not a substitute for professional psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content provided by Maricle Counseling and Amy Maricle, LMHC, ATR-BC is intended for general information purposes only. Never disregard professional medical or psychological advice or delay seeking treatment because of something you read here.
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Hey, Amy! I love this topic! And, I love your thinking about how to increase the likelihood of making positive changes.
I don’t make New Years Resolutions any more – instead thinking that any change worth making is worth making when I notice there’s actually a need to change. Instead, I choose a single word – kind of like a mantra – to focus on for the year. Two years ago it was “yes” and last year it was “courage.” (I’m not sure yet what I’m focusing on in 2014.) Both “yes” and “courage” gave me enough focus and wiggle room to more consciously make the changes I wanted to make and seemed to serve me well.
Your post, though, has given me pause again to reconsider the possibilities for resolutions and has also served as a reminder that while the resolutions haven’t worked so well for me, you’ve obviously found that they have served you well. Growing your private practice and running your first half marathon! WHO-HOOOO! That’s awesome!
Wishing you much joy, health, and success in 2014!
Tamara – thanks so much for sharing your success in using a really flexible “structure” like a mantra, as a way to make changes in your life. This speaks to what I was saying about paying attention to your impulses to make healthy choices, rather than making a list of resolutions simply because it happens to be January 1st. I can’t stand resolutions because they just feel so stiff and confining. In 2013, like you, I was paying attention to what would be good for me, and as soon as I felt clear about what that would be, I pursued it. It sounds like having a mantra plays a similar function. I’d be curious what other sorts of “structures” people use for making positive changes other than resolutions.
All the best,
Amy, this also makes me think of vision boards and boxes and books and journaling, too.
Tamara – YES! I love “visioning” change through art and writing too.