Mind, Body, Spirit - January 2017
New Year, New You
Most New Year's resolutions are abandoned by February, so try these simple techniques to give yours some real staying power.
- by LB Kovac
If you’re one of the nine in 20 Americans making a resolution this January, you need not sullenly give into temptation. Dr. John Norcross, a psychological researcher from the University of Scranton, argues in this paper that simply having a resolution makes you more likely to succeed: “You are 10 times more likely to change by making a New Year’s resolution compared to non-resolvers with the identical goals and comparable motivation to change.”
If those odds still aren’t good enough for you, there are a couple of other things you can do to help yourself on the way to success. Stay trim, learn a language, quit smoking or write a novel right into 2018 with these tips!
There's An App For That
If keeping a resolution were easy, everyone would do it. Resolutions represent hard work! And, after a week of attempting to adapt to new behavior, you just might feel your willpower weakening. When that moment comes, just remember that there’s an app for nearly everything.
Willpower is, after all, a form of mental energy. Outsourcing this energy to an app, program, or some other tracking form, can significantly improve your odds of success.
Trying to slim down? My Fitness Pal counts calories and tracks workouts for you with ease. Putting down the smokes? Quitter’s Circle lets you set up personalized goals and reminders. Want to get more organized or increase your focus? Try out Slash and Things.
With that out of the way, you can use that willpower for other things.
Make Your Goal Measurable
Do you want to shed a few pounds? A smaller waistline was the most popular New Year’s resolution of 2015, well ahead of giving up vices like drinking or smoking, per numbers from Statistic Brain.
If weight loss is your goal, Andrea Bonior, Ph. D, a behavioral psychologist based in Washington D.C. and author of the Baggage Check column for the Washington Post Express, advises saying something along the lines of, “This week, I’ll try to go to the gym three times, take the stairs at work at least twice, and bring a healthy lunch every day.” If you put a number on the thing you’re attempting to do, it will be that much more obvious when you have met the goal. Speaking of…
February is where the most people drop off their New Year's resolutions. The high of setting a goal and working toward it has worn off, and the reality of limiting yourself has set in.
“If you use willpower only to deny yourself pleasures, it becomes a grim, thankless form of defense,” says John Tierney in this New York Times article. “But when you use it to gain something, you can wring pleasure out of the dreariest tasks.”
Dr. Frank Farley, former director of the American Psychological Association, encourages readers of The Wall Street Journal to reward themselves for small successes towards their goal: “Check [your momentum] often, maybe monthly, and reward yourself for baby steps along the way.”
Reward yourself for having made it this far! Go out to a nice dinner with friends, buy that dress or shoes you’ve been eyeing, or go on a trip to a new and exciting place.
Failure IS An Option
The mission crew for Apollo 13 ran a tight ship, and Gene Kranz, mission director at the time, is credited with inspiring the line, “Failure is not an option.”
The Apollo 13 mission also inspired this line: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Just like the moon-bound astronauts, you will run into problems. If you want to achieve overall success at your goal, you must give yourself some room to have a couple of stumbles along the way.
Although setting out to change yourself is a big personal undertaking, it isn’t landing a rocket ship on the moon. Unless your chosen field is rocket or neuroscience, expensive equipment won’t be damaged, and you will survive.
Dr. Farley says, “Don’t catastrophize an occasional bad behavior. When you fall off your schedule, it isn’t the end of the world. Like Frank Sinatra said, dust yourself off and start all over again.”
Failure is something that happens to everyone, and the best thing you can do is keep on going.
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