As many of my readers know, I'm not much for New Year's resolutions. I am, however, very much for goals and striving for change and personal growth.
To me, a resolution is more of an emotional statement based on a strong desire to change something. "I'm going to lose those 40 pounds this year!" "I'm going to fit into this size 6 dress by my daughter's wedding." "I'm going to run my first marathon this year!" Some people stop right there. They express their emotional desire in the form of a resolution and expect that that expression alone is enough to make the change happen. Others go one step further by adopting some form of rigid or extreme "treatment" that is supposed to guarantee success. It might be the latest fad diet from a recently released diet book or an extreme exercise class newly discovered and recommended by a friend who has made a similar resolution.
In reality, most people don't spend the time to wisely design and implement a plan that not only will lead to reaching the year's goal but also will lead to permanent, life-altering, healthy changes — a plan like the one followed by the person who quietly goes about daily life, holiday season or not, eating nutritious meals, exercising and making other healthy choices. This person didn't announce the start of healthy changes, but rather just started making them. Friends and family are used to this person's regular lifestyle of healthy behaviors and have come to expect it.
If you have a history of setting New Year's resolutions only to let them go by the wayside year after year, pay particular attention to this person and the secrets to success.
With mindfulness, you, too, can become this type of person. It's really not that difficult. These tips will help get you there in 2016:
Think of your resolution as a collective one: A resolution isn't just about making a statement of intent. You must think about all the issues that have to be considered and attended to in order to accomplish your goal. Simply saying that you're going to lose weight in 2016 isn't enough. Weight loss involves many things, from learning to eat and shop right to building endurance with exercise, thinking positively and setting priorities.
Use your smartphone and other technology to help you: Your smartphone can increase your awareness of what you need to be doing at any given moment. You can put reminders and calendar events on your phone (when you're going to exercise, when you're going to shop for food) so that you are alerted to and reminded of the things you want to value and prioritize in life so that they can become habits.
Make a weekly appointment with yourself: Pretend that you have a standing weekly appointment with a therapist or trainer. The only difference will be that the session is with you. Allow a half-hour to an hour to address any problems that might be derailing your good intentions. Perhaps you allowed a friend to talk you out of your walk and in to shopping instead. Catching red flags early will nip self-defeating tendencies in the bud.
Take a monthly inventory: During your weekly appointment, once per month review the overall progress you've made toward your ultimate goal and revise as necessary.
Make proper use of the past: Sometimes the past should stay in the past, such as when you're only making yourself feel guilty. That said, you can learn a lot from previous behavior. Put that information to good use for the future.
Set your sights realistically: A resolution and the smaller goals that comprise it must be doable. Beware of goals that are impossible to achieve.
Look around: Study people who are doing a good job of staying focused on their health goals and are realistic about those goals. Pick their brains and use their good ideas.
So call them New Year's resolutions if you'd like, but remember this: Sensible goal setting and mindfulness are key to getting what you really want out of life, and they go well beyond simply having an intention or making a statement.
May you have a healthy and happy new year.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist, an expert in weight management and an author. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.