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goalsIt’s that traditional time again when we hear talk about New Year’s resolutions, and sometimes make great promises to ourselves about what we’re going to accomplish in the New Year.  We tell ourselves this coming year will be different, and we’re ready to charge ahead with new zeal and new goals.

We all know that even when we make those resolutions, we don’t always keep them, so are they really worth doing?

Experts say there are ways to make them work for you.  “It’s OK to make New Year’s resolutions, but only if you see them not as unbreakable promises to yourself, but as positive statements about possibilities,” says Jason Elias, PhD, a staff psychologist at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass.

Most experts agree, you can make them a positive map for changes you want to make.  Taking action is the key.  So, how do you set yourself up for success?

Dr. Elias advises that the best kept resolutions that can actually benefit you are the ones that involve a realistic perspective of who you are and what you really want:  “Sometimes people set their goals too high, such as ‘getting my life back on track,’ and those things are way too big to keep track of, to know whether or not you’re even making progress on them.”

If you’ve made up your mind to give resolutions another “go,” here are some guidelines gleaned from psychologists and experts in changing behavior on how to leverage resolutions for the best result.

  1. First, do a self-assessment. Who are you and what do you really want to accomplish?  Be focused and simple.
  2. Be realistic. Sure, you want to play basketball for the dream team, but at 5ft. 5, the odds are against you.  Big time.  Instead ask, even though it will take effort, what can I achieve that is truly doable?
  3. Make the goals specific and measurable. If yours happens to be, “I want to lose weight,” that’s too general.  More specific is, “I will read labels in the store to help cut out all unhealthy food and drinks to reduce my waist size 1 ½ inches by February 15th.”  Remember, you can only manage what you can measure.  If you “slip” a little, don’t beat yourself up.  Just get back to the actions that align with your goals as soon as possible.  Ask, what can I do right now to refocus?
  4. Break goals down into several smaller steps. If you’re focused on weight, for example, step one might be, “I won’t buy any more sodas or so called ‘fruit drinks’ that are loaded with sugar.” Then figure out what’s a logical step two.  It might be, “I will do my walking program three days per week for 30-minutes each time, starting Monday.”
  5. Celebrate even small victories. Reward yourself for every “positive” that you can.  It can be getting a massage, or going to coffee with a friend, or reading a fun book—anything that doesn’t contradict your goals but is your own style of mini-celebration.

If you approach the “resolution thing” in a different way, experts believe you will have much greater success, and will benefit from the process.  According to Lynne Brodie of Carnelian Coaching in Ashburn, Va., “I think if people framed it differently and made it more of a positive experience, then it would be easier for people to keep resolutions, and psychologically it would make them feel a lot better about themselves.”

It’s certainly worth a try.