Resolutions: a good idea?

With 2013 just a few days old, many people either have made or will be making resolutions for the coming year. An article by NPs&PAs offers five tips to help make sure those New Year’s resolutions work.

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Note: Taken from NPs&PAs(1)

From the Editorial Director: As we begin 2013, no doubt we are all making New Year’s resolutions. Here is an interesting article I thought I would share with you on this topic, from NPs&PAs.

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The new year encourages up to 45 percent of American adults to make at least one or more resolution each year. Yet, after 6 months, less than half are still maintaining those promises and commitments. By the end of the year, research demonstrates only 10 percent are still proactive with their resolutions.

Which begs the question, "Why do we abandon these plans," since 90 percent don't make lasting changes in their lives?

"Most people are not successful with New Year's resolutions because the new year is simply a symbol or metaphor for change and marks the beginning of a new cycle," according to Gary Williams, EdS, president of Counseling & Consulting Professionals in Birmingham, AL.

To ensure long-lasting change, "People need a process to change successfully. If they desire to achieve their goals, they also need to be aware that their best plan cannot pinpoint bumps in the road an unanticipated obstacles," he adds.

Clinical social worker and transitions coach Jeanne Berger of Naples, FL, agrees.

"When we make New Year's resolutions, we are motivated by dissatisfaction with our current circumstances, i.e. extra pounds or lack of financial resources, but we usually have not thought through what it is that we want. Is our need strong enough to stand up to the many temptations that confront us? And are we willing to make permanent lifestyle changes? If you can't answer 'yes' to those questions, then you have sabotaged yourself before you even begin."

Williams notes the people who successfully meet their resolutions are "willing to stop, reassess and launch the action phase of a new plan" to address bumps in the road and self-sabotage. The ability to be flexible and adaptable are key skills in creating long-lasting, sustainable success, according to a new book, Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags, (Collage Press, 2010).

Whether it's setting new goals and resolutions for the new year or restructuring your lifestyle to meet current economic challenges, "making significant life changes requires creativity, tenacity, vision, perseverance and getting out of your comfort zone," says author Bonnie Michaels. "To create sustainable success, you have to create a plan that is holistic and integrates all parts of your life - not just one area."

Co-author Allison Blankenship agrees, recalling her own personal experience of cleaning out an old file drawer and discovering a list of New Year's resolution from almost 10 years ago.

"What was so discouraging was that my goals - work out more often, save money, etc. - really had not changed, which told me that my life goals had not significantly changed or been successful after 10 years," she said.

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That experience led Blankenship to research the process of lasting change, both professionally and personally. When approached by Michaels, a groundbreaking problem solver for work and personal life issues, to partner on a book to assist individuals facing major life decisions and transitions, Blankenship jumped at the chance. Upside: How to Zig When Life Zags contains 29 tips and hands-on exercises to identify hidden obstacles that can sabotage goals and success efforts.

When setting New Year's resolutions, Michaels and Blankenship recommend five strategies to increase the probability of success:

1. Accept that the "not-known" is the new normal. Thanks to technology, our world is changing faster than ever before. And while this change means the end of many things familiar, it also brings maximum opportunities. Rather than focus on what isn't working any more, be on the watch for new events or prospects and redesign your goals and resolutions accordingly.

2. Eliminate expectation and entitlement. Almost everyone has hidden expectations that can lead to entitlement, i.e., go to college and get a good job, etc. or "I deserve this because..." When these expectations and entitlements don't pan out, it can cause anger, disappointment and even depression. The authors recommend detaching yourself from expectations and approaching goals with hope and fortitude instead. Then celebrate small successes as you move toward your achievement to reinforce a positive outlook.

3. Make passion your true power. Many of our goals are "shoulds" and expectations from others and not a passion individually. The fastest way to sabotage yourself is to allow external influences determine your priorities. Instead, the authors recommend clarifying your personal core values and reworking your version of the "American Dream" to align with what you are passionate about. Then, create a strategic plan to incorporate this passion into your daily life in small doses while you move toward your overall goal or resolution.

4. Master mindfulness. In a crazy-busy world of texting, 24/7 accessibility and one-up competition, Michaels and Blankenship stress the importance of taking time out to reflect on how you want to work and live. Becoming more mindful, or aware, of what's going on around you at the present moment brings clarity and allows your focus to stay on track. Constantly thinking about the past or future robs you of the present and can sabotage your goals.

5. Develop a community of support. Achieving goals and meeting resolutions are accelerated when we surround ourselves with people of like minds and energy. Sometimes we are unwittingly derailed by our friends and families who are comfortable with our present selves or lifestyles. Changing this focus usually means reaching out to professional groups, mentors or networks.”(1)

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To read more about resolutions, click here and here.

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