Many people make resolutions to change and improve their lives at this time of year. A new year is a good time to look back over the past year, to identify what’s been satisfying or unsatisfying, and to decide what needs to change. Exercising more, losing weight, paying off debts, making more money, or improving performance in some activity are common goals. Unfortunately, many people fail to follow through on their good intentions.
Here are some suggestions for making resolutions for 2010 that you can keep:
1. Be realistic. The easiest way to sabotage yourself is to setting a goal you’ll never be able to achieve. Set one goal at a time, with a reasonable time frame for accomplishment. “I will lose 20 lbs. before Valentine’s Day”, “I won’t buy anything new until my credit card is paid off”, or “I will be the number one player in my league/division/club,” are unrealistic for most of us.
2. Be specific and concrete in setting goals. Focus on the particular behaviors you want to establish. “I will walk/run/go to aerobics for forty-five minutes, four times each week,” instead of “I will exercise more.” Deciding to cut up your credit card and pay off $100 every month on the balance is better than “I’ll pay off my credit card this year.” Make sure you actually have the time or means to achieve these goals; if not, modify your goal to something more attainable.
3. Focus on improving over past performances (a competence orientation), rather than on comparing yourself to and/or defeating others (an outcome orientation). Sports psychologists find working toward self-improvement helps to maintain motivation and self-esteem, and increases ability to cope with frustration and failure. A competence goal (“Increase my total sales by 20%”) enhances performance more than an outcome goal (“Be the top selling sales rep.” )
4. Anticipate difficulties and decide in advance how you will handle them. What if you get sick or injured? What if bad weather interferes? What if other responsibilities conflict? What if your progress is slower than you expected? Write down some ideas on alternatives activities, who you could go to for help, how you might handle time conflicts. While you can’t anticipate every problem that may arise, it’s helpful to remember problems are inevitable, and to think about some possible solutions beforehand.
New Year’s resolutions which are unrealistic, vague, or unattainable are guaranteed to fail. That’s a discouraging way to start off the new year. For 2010, make a resolution to start off the year in a positive way, by setting goals that are realistic, specific and achievable.