Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Dream Big, Plan Small

As we draw closer to the end of the year, many folks start to think about their hopes and plans for the New Year.  The New Year brings an opportunity to recommit to those things that are important to you, or to start something new entirely.  For some of us, we may frame these commitments as New Year’s Resolutions.

The bad news about resolutions is that, too often, our best intentions don’t get us the results that we want. Research confirms that more than half of resolutions aren’t sustained for longer than six months, and some suggest that that percentage is even higher.  If you’ve failed to maintain a New Year’s resolution, or seen someone else fail, you might be inclined to avoid making a commitment.  After all, that way you won’t be disappointed!

The good news is that people who make resolutions are far more likely to achieve their goals than people who aren’t.   In one study, only 4% of people who didn’t make resolutions achieved their goals, as opposed to 54% of people who did make them.  That’s a huge difference!  So, if you’ve got a goal in mind, don’t be afraid to commit.

If you’ve decided to commit to a goal or resolution, research has also found that there are strategies that are more likely to help you succeed.

1.  Little by little – People who break their larger goals into smaller, more achievable ones are more likely to succeed over the long-term.
2.  Celebrate successes – People who reward themselves for the goals they achieve are more likely to continue them.
3.  Get support – Those who share their goals with friends or other support networks are more often successful in reaching their goals.
4.  Accentuate the positive – Those who focus on the benefits of success rather than the risks of failure are more likely to succeed.   For example, someone who wants to quit smoking might focus on the benefits of breathing easier, smelling better, and regaining their sense of taste and smell (instead of thinking about how failure might increase their risk of chronic disease or death).
5.  Track your progress – Those who keep some kind of journal or log of their progress are more likely to succeed. 

These findings are completely consistent with my real-world experience as a health coach, and they probably make a lot of sense to you too.  Making lasting healthy behavior change is a journey that requires inspiration, commitment, planning, and support.  The important take-home message to me is that there are particular steps that one can take to get where you want to go.  It isn’t mysterious, and success isn’t just a matter of willpower.  As I often tell my clients – the goal is learning how to work smarter, not harder.

As you consider your aspirations for the New Year, I hope that you will be inspired to Dream Big and determined to Plan Small.  Dreaming Big will give you the energy you need to get started.  Planning Small will help you overcome obstacles and give you the structure you need to stay on track. 

Dream Big:  Are you ready to inspire yourself? I invite you to join me for a month-long "Picture of Health" event that I’m hosting on Facebook.  Once you join the event, just make a virtual health vision board (using Pinterest as a tool) and then post a link to your board in the comments section of the event page.  Then, please take a look at other boards that have been posted and share your ideas and inspiration!

Plan Small:  Once you know where you want to go, make a personalized plan that works for you!  I invite you to join me for a complimentary teleseminar on December 31 to help you do that.  I’d love to share more strategies about how to “Turn your New Year’s Resolutions into Long-term Solutions”!

So, will you make a New Year’s Resolution for 2013?  As you consider the possibility, let me share a quote by Peter Drucker:  “Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes…but no plans.”

I’d love to hear what commitments that you’re making to your well being in the coming year!