The classic "New Year's Resolution" has become so cliché and so over-used, that we joke about how quickly we break our resolutions, completely ignoring the fact that we are, indeed, breaking a promise to ourselves when we do so.
It's likely that resolutions for the new year suffer a great deal of misunderstanding. They are seen as throw-away promises to ourselves, and it's pretty common for most folks to break the resolution a week or two later (completely forgetting it was ever a promise made at all...)
The truth is, if you don't take the promise seriously when you first make it, there's no real reason to continue to try to keep that promise. If it's done as a joke or on the spur of the moment some New Year's Eve, why would you expect yourself to hold to that promise for an entire year?
But there's another sort of New Year's Resolution... the kind we definitely
should pay close attention to and do our best to stick to. These are the kinds
of resolutions that come as the result of introspection and reflection, of a true
desire for change or goal attainment.
Instead of saying "I'm going to lose weight this year," or "I'm going to stick with my low carb diet this year", say "I'm going to take an active roll in counting my carb grams and calories each day until I find what works for me."
Or instead of "I'm going to have more willpower to stay away from temptation this year", say "I'm going to have a plan for how to deal with temptation this year and how to tell people 'no'." Then write up the plan. Prove to yourself you've done what you said.
Have a contingency plan for when you are tempted. For instance, if you want to smoke, go for a walk instead, or call a friend.
If you say that you're going to write more letters to friends you may or may not do so, but if you say that you're going to write at least two letters a week to friends, you have a specific goal that you can measure and verify, and you'll have written over 100 letters in 2003. Make your resolutions quantifiable and verifiable.
Don't promise to lose twenty pounds by Valentine's Day if you can't do it. Very few people can safely lose that much weight that quickly.
Don't promise to always clean your house every single day. Don't promise to give half of your earnings to charity if you can't afford it.
The more realistic you are, the more likely you'll be to stick to your resolutions, and the more pride you'll get out of having accomplished something valuable.
Lasting change means being prepared to make sacrifices. If you're resistant to making the necessary sacrifices, ask yourself why. Many people resist change because they're afraid of the unknown. Unhealthy habits may be harmful and detract from your quality of life, but they're familiar, and for many that's reason enough to keep them.
The best way to overcome this fear of the unknown is to make yourself fully aware of the consequences of not changing your current habits, and the advantages of adopting new behaviors. Make a list of the pros and cons of smoking, for example. A "pro" might be the relief from tension smoking brings you. A definite "con," however, is the greatly increased risk of cancer and heart disease; and its interferrence to making a lowered carb diet work to its best ability. Seeing the consequences of a bad habit in black and white may make fear of the unknown less imposing and make change more desirable.
If all of your resolutions focus on yourself and what you want, you'll be ignoring one of the great truths in life — we find happiness and self-satisfaction in doing things for others.
Want a happier life? Then don't resolve to become happier. Instead, resolve to do one good thing every day for someone else, with no recognition or reward.
These can be simple deeds such as helping a stranger carry something from the store to his or her car, or donating a dollar when the person in front of you in the check-out line comes up 95 cents short. Simple things that cost us very little in life and invariably bring us happiness and better self-esteem.
Write down and post these resolutions where you'll see them many times every day. Remind yourself constantly that you have a goal this year, and that you're working to reach this goal.
Form a support system of friends and family, who will cheer you on and also challenge you to stick to your goals.
Find time for yourself, and spend it doing something you enjoy. It might be reading, painting, hiking, writing, playing an instrument, making crafts… almost anything. If you don't have a hobby you can do by yourself, find one! Being able to enjoy time spent alone is important; it helps you remember who you really are.
Take credit for success when you achieve a resolution, but it is a mistake to blame yourself
if you fail. Instead, look at the barriers that were in your way. See how you can do better
the next time and figure out a better plan to succeed. You do get to try again and can make
behavior changes throughout the year, not only at New Year's. Remember that there's nothing
wrong with Easter resolutions or Birthday resolutions!
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