New Year’s Resolutions

40 to 45% of American adults make one or more New Year’s resolutions. Studies have shown that the most common things we want to change about ourselves are: lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking, save more money , and get out of debt.

The following shows how many of these resolutions are maintained as time goes on:
– past the first week: 75%
– past 2 weeks: 71%
– after one month: 64%
– after 6 months: 46%

While a lot of people who make new years resolutions do break them, research shows that making resolutions is useful. People who choose to explicitly make a resolution and tell others about it are 10 times more likely to follow through than people who keep their goals to themselves, and don’t officially give it the “New Year’s Resolution” label.

As with all goal setting, telling important people in our lives about it, and writing the goal down are important because it makes us feel accountable. These small acts instill a feeling that the goal is now bigger than just ourselves, and enhances the possibility of following through over the long term.

Another aspect of goal setting that has been known to lead toward ultimate follow through is specificity. For instance, if a person wants to lose weight, they should identify the amount of weight they want to lose, thus making the goal concrete. While concretizing the goal, another equally crucial part of the plan is moderation. Someone who wants to lose 20 lbs, or get out of debt should NOT strive to complete these tasks in a short period of time. The pressure of restricting spending to the bare minimum to get out debt quicker will ultimately make the task overbearing and impossible to keep up over the long haul. Same with weight loss. Losing all the weight one needs to lose in a month is unrealistic and would involve a far too restricted diet to be able to continue past the 6 month milestone where a full 54 percent of us abandon our resolutions. The same even goes for stopping smoking. This is probably the hardest of the most common resolutions to follow through on. While ‘cold turkey’ works for some people, I recommend a plan of moderation here as well. Learning to reduce the amount of cigarrettes week by week to eventually get down to none is a very slow but steady manner of stopping. Also using the nicotine patches and even talking to one’s doctor about medication options to stop smoking will make the goal much more managable. Also, many people who smoke do so to reduce stress, and oftentimes addressing one’s underlying depression with therapy can help reduce thisstress ina non-destructive manner. This can also aid one to stop smoking in 2009.

Setting moderate, even easy to accomplish goals for the first 6 months of ’09 will help enable us to get into a routine of success where we know we can accomplish our goals, and furthermore, EXPECT to accomplish our goals. Learning to expect success, and making our goals do-able and realistic can help ensure that in 2010, we aren’t making the exact same resolutions of 2009.

Dr. Jared Maloff

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