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Keeping Your Resolve

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” -Edith Lovejoy Pierce

Happy 2016! It’s that time after the holidays where we emerge from our ugly sweaters and renounce all of our holiday indulgences, making zealous declarations to lose weight, eat healthier, save more, learn something new… “New year, new you,” right? Well, it’s easy to make a new year’s resolution, but often we find ourselves struggling to keep it after January when things start getting difficult and life gets in the way. We should take this opportunity to seriously ask ourselves: “What do I want to accomplish this year? Who do I want to be? What can I do to be happier?'” We need to set goals to give us direction and drive us forward.

The most commonly used definition of the word “resolution,” and how we understand it as part of the phrase “new year’s resolution” is, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “a firm decision to do or not to do something.” It is a commitment, a pledge, a promise. But, interestingly, the word resolution comes from the latin word resolutio(n-), from re (expressing intensive force) + solvere, which means “loosen, release.”  I think the origin of the word reveals more about how we should think about our new year’s resolutions. They’re not simply decisions to change. Something is letting go, subsiding, healing. Maybe it means that the previous year is loosening its grip, releasing tension, intensively throwing us into the next…(ready or not, here it comes.)

And it’s actually here already. Not the Starting-Over, but The Continuation. January 1st is not a re-set button, nor should it be seen as one. The worries and mistakes of 2015 have not been erased, but will be let go. Release any negativity, but never forget how it affected you, so that halfway through your new year’s resolutions, you’ll remember why you can’t give up.

Here are some tips that can help you stick to your resolution:

  1. Set one realistic, specific goal: Sure, this sounds silly, but don’t take on more than you can handle, otherwise you risk burning out and being disappointed in yourself. Can you really quit smoking, travel to Europe, and train for that marathon you want to run? Probably not. Focus all your willpower on something really meaningful to you.
  2. Write it down and tell someone: You’re more likely to stick to your goal if you write it down and share it with others! Stick a Post-It on your computer or fridge for a constant reminder, and update family members and friends with progress- they’ll help hold you accountable. Better yet, have them join in!
  3. Be specific with your plan: “Be healthier” gives you no real concrete things to attack. Instead, set smaller, tangible goals that will help you to achieve the larger one, like ” in order to lose 5 pounds by the end of the month…I will take the stairs instead of the elevator, pack a healthy lunch instead of eating out, and hit the gym 3 times this week.”
  4. Don’t worry about being perfect: Changing a habit or revamping your lifestyle is seriously hard work. The “21 days to make or break a habit” is a myth- on average it takes between two and eight months for a behavior to become habit. Allowing yourself wiggle room will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and keeps you in a more positive mind-set. If you’re trying to lose weight, don’t be wracked with guilt for going out to dinner one night. If you miss a day at the gym because you’re just too tired, don’t beat yourself up. Studies show that missing an opportunity to perform your habit does not interfere with the habit-making process. Allow yourself to make mistakes so you can develop a strategy to get back on track.
  5. Reward yourself: Celebrate tiny victories, like losing 3 pounds, or not drinking soda for 2 weeks, by doing something nice for yourself. Buy yourself a workout shirt for your new fitness class, get a massage, go to the movies. Rewarding yourself keeps you motivated and reinforces your positive behaviors.

Remember that new year’s resolutions are a journey. Build on last year’s accomplishments and re-build from the failures. Wishing you all much love, happiness and success in the new year. 

By: Tracy L. Nieradka