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By Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D.

Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Romans began the practice of making New Year’s resolutions when they named the first month after Janus, the god of beginnings. Janus had two faces, one looking back at the old year, the other looking forward to the new one. In order to secure good fortune in the future, January became the time when you ask forgiveness for past deeds and look inward for areas to improve.

Now that you have made your own personal resolutions - still an honored ritual at this time of year - how do you avoid another universal tradition - breaking them? We all know that it’s easier to say you are going to give up a bad habit than to actually stick to your new plan. As parents have told their children for centuries, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

You may have resolved to finally lose the ten pounds that have been plaguing you for years, to start an exercise program you can stick with, to let go of your self-destructive smoking, drinking or over-spending habit. Or, perhaps you‘re one of the 50% of Americans who vow to spend more time with family and friends this year. So where do you begin? And how do you increase the odds that you will continue? With the New Year, you have a clean slate, ready to take your dictation. Here are 8 tips to help you fulfill your resolutions.

1.*Decide on a realistic goal.*  Make it a specific one you can attain. If you want to be more physically fit, commit to taking a 30-minute walk three times a week. If weight loss is your goal, resolve to lose two pounds a month so that you are 10 pounds lighter by summer.    

2.*Make a public commitment.*  Tell others about your decision. They will support you and encourage you to stay with your plan. Make a pledge to take yourself seriously as you change your behavior and life style.

3.*Begin, even if it is not an ideal start.*  Often the hardest step to take is the first one. Rather than waiting until the timing or situation is perfect, jump into your new routine. As Confucius observed centuries ago, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  

4.*Continue taking small steps.*  They will eventually get you where you want to go if you keep moving forward. Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to make strides that are too difficult. Continue to set short-term objectives as you progress toward your long-term goal. You may need to refine your strategies along the way as you discover what works best for you.

5.*Keep track of what you are doing* . Keep a daily journal focused on how you are implementing your behavior change. Record the pattern of your scheduled walks. Develop a detailed budget and observe how you are spending cash. Write down what you eat every day to give you insight and motivation.  

6.*Buddy with a partner.*  Having someone share your journey makes the process more enjoyable. Join a support group where you can talk about your frustrations, particularly if you are working on abusive or self-destructive behavior. Talk with friends and family about your progress or lack of it. See a professional or look to the Internet for information and resources.

7.*Give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing.*  You deserve rewards all along the way - for making the decision to change, for taking the first step, for achieving each objective. Acknowledge the difficulty of your mission and congratulate yourself when you reach your goal.

8.*Accept that you are not perfect and that you will fail sometimes.*  Your path with likely not be a straight line, rather one with several ups and downs. Make a Plan B to use when you can’t proceed as you originally intended. Don’t be defeated by your slip-ups. They are not a reason to give up on yourself or your goal. Instead, get back on track and think about what you have learned from your mistakes.  

Now that you have decided you are ready to make a change, planning how to achieve your New Year’s resolutions is crucial. Acknowledge your role in the process and focus on the strategies that work for you. As you use these tips to turn your goals into reality, enjoy the satisfaction that comes from your success in 2009.

© 2009, Her Mentor Center

Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are co-founders of [Link Removed] a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomer’s family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website.


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