New Year’s resolutions are often made with the best intentions, but with little to no attention to the factors that will lead to the greatest success (i.e. change a behavior, start going to therapy, be more healthy, etc.). In fact, the statistics about people actually keeping their resolutions are not very good. However, there is hope! By following a few techniques you can greatly increase the success of your New Year’s resolutions.
Be Realistic: Setting a goal that is too massive will surely fail. For example, many people set New Year’s resolutions that they are going to change their career, or “become healthy”, or stop fighting with their partner for family. The problem with creating resolutions in this way is that they can feel overwhelming. What does it mean to “become healthy”? A full over haul of your lifestyle is tough. Start with something more manageable, “I am going to walk more, make more of an effort to stay connected with people I care about, and explore finding a healthy outlet for stress.”
Set Objectives: Be very clear about how you will measure your progress, while allowing for some wiggle room. Remember, you are a human, not a robot. Decide what a reasonable amount of success towards your New Year’s resolution is. Then write down the steps you need to take to achieve your goal. An important rule of thumb: if you break down a project or resolution into steps and still have trouble getting started, then the first step is still too big.
Use Positive Visualization: People often tend to think of the dread of starting a project or goal, “I hate the gym.” or “I’ll never be more organized, my place is a mess!” Instead of being confronted with these negative thoughts, think about the how you will feel and how your life will be different if you meet your goal, “If I make it to the gym today I will sleep better, feel better, and get out of the house.”
Don’t Let Setbacks Stop You: There are always going to be hiccups and hassles that can impede your progress from day to day. It is totally normal for this to happen. However, when it does, get out a piece of paper and write down one small thing you can do to get started again working towards your New Year’s Resolution. The old adage of “The hardest part is getting started.” can be very true. Get started and don’t give up when you miss a step towards your goal.
I often get many calls from people this time of year wanting to start therapy or find ways to be more successful in their career or personal life. I work with all of my client’s to identify manageable goals, capitalize on their strengths and make the most of their life and relationships, through the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Positive Psychology, and other goal oriented techniques.
I welcome your calls and emails and hope to help you reach your full potential in 2013.
Phil Boissiere, MFT provides goal oriented Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in San Francisco and Menlo Park.