by Candace Chemtob
“If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” —Andrew Carnegie
It’s been a month since New Year’s Day, but let’s pause to remember that the new year brings the promise of good things to come. With new year’s resolutions still relatively fresh on our minds, how can we turn our good intentions into reality? Customarily, resolutions focus on improving one’s health. And for this reason, here are tips that may help you carry your resolutions through to a successful conclusion:
1. First and foremost, don’t expect that this will be easy. Change is hard work. To break an old habit, you have to essentially rewire the brain. It requires a mental override to resist an engrained, automatic response (habit) to a stimulus, time and time again, until new neural pathways are eventually formed and reinforced. To get rid of old habits, you have to remodel your brain to respond differently. This takes lots of mental energy.
2. Change takes time. It does not happen overnight. Conventional wisdom told us a mere couple of weeks were necessary to change a habit. Research has shown this was wishful thinking. In a recent study, they found an average of sixty-six days were needed to change a habit. Be patient—unfortunately, it’s true that old habits die hard.
3. Choose one meaningful, attainable resolution. Break your resolution down into manageable pieces, then focus on a well-defined, reachable goal. For example, being “healthy in 2017” is too vague. Being healthier could involve diet, exercise, sleep—the list goes on. Instead, be more specific. An example of an attainable, measurable resolution might be to increase the numbers of days you play squash per week from two to four.
4. “Goals are dreams with deadlines,” said Diana Scharf. Set a timeline to reach your goals.
5. Be accountable. The best way is to announce your resolution to family, friends or even more publicly. Yale professor Dean Karlan created a “commitment” program to share personal goals and develop incentives to keep resolutions. This program allows you to put down stakes on your success or failure (yes, money), designate a referee and develop your own support group. The success rate of his participants who use a referee and put money on the line is an impressive 80%.
6. Don’t give up—you will eventually find success. If you can see that you are having difficulty, seek professional help. If you want to improve your fitness level, you can reach out to a trainer. If you want to eat a healthy diet, seek out the help of a dietitian. “Winners are losers who got up and gave it one more try,” said Dennis DeYoung. If you slip, get back up.
7. Reward yourself for a job well done. Celebrate your success. Change is not easy, but in the end after lots of hard work, you have the supreme satisfaction of knowing that you attained something.