Every January, almost half of all Americans make New Years’ resolutions. The top ten resolutions for 2012 included keeping fit and healthy, losing weight, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly. Resolutions like these are more than praiseworthy goals - they are your keys to a longer, happier life. If you can accomplish even one of these goals, you are benefitting not only yourself, but all the people who love you and depend on you.
This year, do not take your New Year’s resolutions lightly. Think seriously about how you can achieve at least one of your goals. Success requires planning and research. Now that the holiday season is over, take some time to prioritize your goals and identify ways to accomplish them.
The greatest obstacle to success is goals that are so large and so general that you are overwhelmed and do not know where to begin. Start by breaking your resolution down into small, practical steps that can easily be accomplished. Define exactly what “keeping fit and healthy” means to you. Does it mean walking a mile every day, or taking all your medications properly and on time? Write down your ideas. Make a list of things you can accomplish one by one, and what you must do to accomplish them. If you are a woman and have not had a mammogram for five years, schedule your mammogram. If you are over fifty, it is time for a colonoscopy. Have your family members had their physicals? Have you had your flu shot? How can you alter your daily routine to fit in that walk or that visit to the gym?
Choose one smaller goal that is important to you and concentrate on achieving it. Then cross it off your list and go on to the next step. Even if you accomplish just one or two steps this year, you will be closer to good health than you were last year.
Identify the obstacles that might prevent you from accomplishing your goal. You might be reluctant to schedule an appointment with a doctor because you are not sure it is covered by your health insurance, or you do not know how much it will cost. Call your doctor or insurance provider and get the information you need. A busy schedule or a stressful lifestyle may leave you with little time to prepare healthy meals. If you are caring for young children, you may find it difficult to fit in a regular exercise routine. Your family or friends may prefer eating calorie-rich foods that undermine your efforts to lose weight. Physical and psychological obstacles like these are very real, and you must find ways to overcome them if you want to succeed.
Write down exactly how you will benefit from achieving each goal, and keep this statement somewhere where you will read it often. Desire is a key to success. If your goal is important to you, you will find ways to overcome or get around the obstacles that block your progress.
Make a list of everything you have to do to accomplish your goal, and add to your list whenever you get new ideas. Put items that you can do right away and items that are most important at the top of your list. Act immediately on the most important item.
Set specific deadlines for accomplishing the items on your list. Break large goals down into smaller goals with individual deadlines. For example, if you want to begin a regular exercise routine, set a goal of keeping your routine for 30 days. Once you have accomplished the first 30 days, it will become easier to continue it for the next 30 days. You may discover that you need to make some changes to the routine in order to keep it up. If you cannot meet a deadline, set a new goal and start again. As you work towards your goals, you may find that your priorities change and that some items on your list become less important.
The good news is that New Year’s resolutions have a positive effect on our behavior. Dr. John Norcross, a professor at the University of Scranton, reports that people who make New year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to succeed in changing their behavior than those who do not.