Monday, January 18, 2016


Happy New Year!  Many of us look at the New Year as a time to change our lives.  We often see it as a new beginning and as a way to re-invent ourselves and our lives. While we are trying to motivate ourselves through the new resolution, we also have to be ready for the change as most change is challenging.  If the behavior we wanted to change was easy, we would not need the resolution.  Psychological studies have shown that approximately 50% of adults tend to make New Year resolutions, especially regarding weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and better money management and debt reduction. Other common resolutions include but are not limited to getting more organized, volunteering and helping others, learning something new, drinking less, enjoying more family time, and generally enjoying life more.
Please keep in mind that if a resolution is unrealistic, you may be buying into false hope and setting yourself up for feelings of failure. Your resolution has to be realistic and match your internal view of yourself and what you are capable of given your life situation.  For example, debt reduction is a wonderful goal, but it has to match your income and fixed expenses.  It would be unrealistic to reduce your debt by an amount that is not commensurate with your income. Also, if you make a resolution but tell yourself that you don’t really believe you can do it, the resolution can lead to negative self-talk, making you feel like you failed. 

To change a behavior, you first have to change your thoughts and expectations and you have to be realistic with the goals you set.  To help reach this goal, try focusing on one resolution at a time.  Set realistic goals in steps or chunks.  For example, with debt reduction, first stop putting any more charges on your credit cards.  Pay some over the minimum on each card but target one card to pay down to zero, however long that takes.  Once that card is paid, target another card, and so on.  Make your resolutions daily and not yearly.  Every morning, remind yourself what your goals are for that day and reinforce your resolution with your recent success. Ask yourself how you are going to meet your goals today.  When you achieve smaller goals along the way, it is less overwhelming and much more reinforcing.  It is also very helpful to enlist the help of someone else, like a support buddy.  This can be a friend or a family member.  Depending on the resolution and goal, it can even be a co-worker or a support group (like weight watchers for weight loss).  Practice your new thoughts based on supporting evidence.  For example, for weight loss, remind yourself that you have stopped gaining weight and have started to lose weight.  For debt reduction, remind yourself of the decreasing balances on your credit cards.  Verbally reinforce for yourself how good your success feels and how much you want to continue to feel that success.  Be aware of your thoughts and feelings, especially those thoughts that might sabotage your success. 

Don’t forget to have fun and reward yourself along the way.  It is important to recognize and acknowledge those intermediate successes so the journey does feel impossible.  Most importantly, have a plan for relapse prevention and goal maintenance.
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