Dr. VanWingen's 3 Tips for a Successful New Year's Resolution
I resolve to lose 12 pounds by March 1st.
There, I said it! Those pounds need to come off for the sake of my health.
It's December 31st and time for resolutions and looking forward into the new year. This blog will examine New Year's resolutions and help us get the edge on successful implementation.
January - A Time of Change
January, the inaugural month of the year gets its name from the Roman god, Janus.
Janus is distinguished by having two faces, one that looks forward and one that looks backward. Roman calendars began with an image of Janus looking back on the previous year and forward into the coming year.
In this same spirit around New Year's time, we look back on the notable times of the previous year and resolve to make things better in the year to come.
Thus, the resolution.
How to Make a Successful New Year's Resolution
I usually have something in mind to better my life with the new year. In the past my resolutions have varied from not stealing my co-workers pens to running a marathon. I'll focus on the positive and say that I managed to run the marathon. While most of us make resolutions, the success rate is dismal. A recent study found that while 52% expressed confidence in achieving their resolution, only 12% were successful.
Where do we fall short?
As a doctor, I regularly assess and assist people in lifestyle changes. Generally, those who are successful in these changes approach change in the same way, following these 5 steps:
The 5 Stages of a Successful Resolution
- Pre-contemplation: The beginning of deliberation regarding change. We have a vague idea that a change should occur, but no plan for how to make it happen. As a doctor, I may challenge patients and set them into the "pre-contemplative" phase when I see the need for them to make a lifestyle change.
- Contemplation: Behavior is monitored. Either alone or with the help of others, we begin to make plans for a change we hope to achieve.
- Preparation: A commitment is made. After determining a strategy for change, we gather the necessary tools, set aside the necessary time and get ourselves in the necessary mind set for starting work on our goal.As a doctor, if a patients come to me in the "contemplative" or "preparation" phase, I may help them to create concrete plans are goals.
- Action: The active phase of change. The plans we have made for change are set into action and the struggle for self-improvement ensues.
- Maintenance: The change is made. Our task now turns toward maintaining our success and preventing a revert. If I find patients in the "active" or "maintenance" phase, I am the encourager, reminding them of the positive aspects of their change.
Listed like this, change looks pretty simple, but as most of us has experienced, it is easier said than done. HOWEVER, by putting certain factors in place, one can improve their chances of success. While goals like "lose weight" and "get more exercise" are certainly good, their vagueness is often their downfall.
In fact, a study on change showed that women improved their chances by 10% when they made their goals public thus making them more accountable to their friends. Men improved their chances of success by 22% if they set CONCRETE goals.
For instance, vague goals such as "lose weight" or "get more exercise" are narrowed to more concrete, specific goals. Women improved their chances by 10% when they made their goals public or got accountability from friends. To improve YOUR chances of achieving your resolution, make your goal one you can be accountable for and make it concrete:
Dr. VanWingen's 3 Tips for Resolution Success
Good, concrete goals should:
- Be Realistic. Don't set yourself up for failure before you even begin! While the most things that are worth having take considerable effort, consider what efforts are possible for you to make and in what time frame. A goal to lose 50 pound in a month, for example, is probably not achievable and definitely not healthy. A goal to lose 10 pounds every two months for the next year, while certainly challenging, CAN be done.
- Be Written Down. Writing goals down has been actually been proven to improve success rates. Put your written resolution in a place you can revisit it regularly, like on a dresser, bathroom mirror or the refrigerator. In fact, post your resolution as a comment on this blog!
- Be Accountable. Enlist your friends to keep you in check. Joining an online support group website is a great way to get ideas and encouragement while you help others with similar goals.