THIS YEAR I learned that New Year’s resolutions really can come true. I’ve been making resolutions for the better part of 56 years, but last year proved to be the first year I actually kept one of them.
I made one goal, to lose weight, which happens to be one of the most common New Year’s resolutions people make, and I have lost nearly 50 pounds. I didn’t diet. I didn’t suffer. I simply set up the perfect New Year’s resolution, which I will tell you about next week.
Today, I offer the experts’ take on your quest to make one of those New Year’s resolutions stick. The key to success, I am convinced, is to come up with one resolution that will be the biggest challenge of your life, and then come up with a workable plan. So forget a list of ten resolutions. Choose only one.
You can do your research and find lots of advice about how to implement your plan. I happen to like the Harvard Medical School’s tips for making New Year’s resolutions come true. Harvard offers seven manageable tips. Here’s my take on them:
1. Dream big. Harvard actually says, “Audacious goals are compelling.” The famous medical school also says you can aspire to lose 50 pounds or run a marathon if you combine “perseverance, encouragement, and support.”
2. Break big dreams into small-enough steps. The experts say devise a doable plan. I say if you want to lose weight, aim for one pound a week, and you can lose 52 pounds in a year. Want to write a book? Set a goal of one page a day and in a year you will have a book 365 pages long.
3. Understand why you shouldn’t make a change. This seemed like the strangest suggestion from the Harvard Medical School. Why would I want to try to talk myself out of a goal? But Harvard says, “Until you grasp why you’re sticking like a burr to old habits and routines, it may be hard to muster enough energy and will to take a hard left toward change.”
We have unhealthy habits, the experts say, because there is some payoff from that negative behaviour so you have to master a technique of enjoying some aspects of the unhealthy behaviour. “If you enjoy taking a break while having a smoke, take the break and enjoy it, but find healthier ways to do so. Otherwise, you’re working against a headwind and are less likely to experience lasting success,” Harvard says.
4. Commit yourself. Harvard says, “Make yourself accountable through a written or verbal promise to people you don’t want to let down.” This means creating a support system or a cheering section. Better yet, find a partner to share your goal. Two people preparing for a marathon or two people supporting each other through the tough days when you’re battling weight are better than going it alone.
5. Give yourself a medal. This simply means celebrate small changes along the way. Stop and think about your progress. Celebrate.
6. Learn from the past. This might just be the most important step in a successful resolution. We often chuck aside that perfect resolution when we hit a stumbling block or we record a failure along the way. Harvard says learn from the failure. Take the time and think about what happened, and tweak your plan if need be.
For instance, Harvard says if you set a goal of 30 minutes of exercise a day, and you find you can’t do it consecutively, figure out how to break it up into manageable increments throughout the day. There’s always another plan to meet that goal.
7. Give thanks for what you do. The experts say, “Forget perfection.” Keep your goal in mind. Don’t think about the steps along the way and make them a daunting task. Think about the goal in the end. You’re pushing through that daily run because you can see yourself at the end of that marathon. Don’t think about writing a page a day to finish a book. Picture the finished book. The page a day is just the means to meet that end.
A successful New Year’s resolution can be life-changing. It can teach invaluable lessons about organisation, perseverance, trust and commitment.
Check out the Harvard Medical School’s New Year’s resolution plan at https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/seven-steps-for-making-your-new-years-resolutions-stick
Next week, I’ll tell you how I kept the first New Year’s resolution of my life and lost nearly 50 pounds