Maintaining Change & Keeping New Years Resolutions

It’s February now, and for many people, that means that the resolutions or goals they have set for the new year have already long been forgotten.

So what do you do if you are prone to not following through on your goals?

Here are a few tips for how to set and keep your New Years resolutions:

1. Set Realistic Goals:

This sounds so simple, and I know it is something that I’ve mentioned in previous posts, but I cannot overestimate the importance of being realistic with our goals or what we set for ourselves. If you have never run a day in your life, and you are tempted to set a resolution to complete a marathon this year, you may be setting yourself up for failure. A more reasonable goal would be to complete a 5K, or to jog two days a week.

This type of rational applies to all kinds of goals, especially those that incorporate other people. If you have not spoken to your father in twenty years, expecting to have a great relationship by the end of the year may not offer enough time to reach your goal. Set smaller, more obtainable goals to increase success, and if you accomplish them early, you can still set a slightly more challenging goal. You develop a history of setting and succeeding at your goals, which means you will be more likely to continue succeeding at the goals you set.

2. Narrow your focus:

I know I am guilty of this as well, but sometimes taking stock of our lives in attempts to work towards change leads us to identify every area we need to work on…all at the same time. We identify twenty or thirty things we want to work on or change. This can lead to a number of problematic outcomes.

First, we might be so overwhelmed at the incredible list ahead of us that we never even begin. What started out as a positive exercise quickly turns into a hopeless cause, and we throw our hands in the air in exasperation, thinking, “Why bother?” Second, we may work ourselves into a frenzy for a few weeks or even months, spreading ourselves between too many “projects” before wearing out in complete exhaustion, never to resume our half-finished projects again. Whatever the path that leads to these outcomes, we are more than likely again setting ourselves up for failure when we try to make too many changes at once.

Here are a couple of ways I help clients work on narrowing their goals. One way is to think: Which area is causing you the most problems, frustration, pain, etc.? That is probably a good place to start because more than likely the most significant problem area is also costing you the most too (in time, energy, worry, and even financially). Another way to find where to start is by thinking about which area if resolved, would take care of a lot of other problem areas as well?

That is often another great place to begin. If finding a new job would allow you to get your finances under control, pay off your debt, spend more time with family, and lose the weight you’ve put on from stress-eating, then maybe that’s a better place to start than any of those other areas individually.

3. Change what isn’t working

If every year you set a goal to do something, tackle it the same way you always have, and then never accomplish it, it might be time for a new strategy. You can stick with the same goal if you want, but maybe change your approach. Brainstorm with family and friends, or a counselor, in order to find a way that might help you reach your goal more effectively. Don’t let your pride or belief in the way things “ought” to get done keep you from experiencing true change.

4. Go public with it

Sometimes letting others into our plans for change can be a strong motivator for seeing results. The vulnerability and risk of possible embarrassment if we don’t follow through on what others know we are planning to do can help hold us accountable to our goals. Maybe a friend or family member has a similar goal, and you both want to help motivate each other towards change. Just be careful who you choose to hold you accountable. Confiding in already unhealthy relationships can cause more harm than good in seeing positive change.

5. Get to the root

There are times when the best plans still do not get us the results we want. We may be blind to some of the deeper issues at work in us that is keeping us from change, or may subconsciously be sabotaging ourselves without realizing it. If you have a pattern of failed attempts at change despite all your best efforts and want to get to the bottom of it, consider seeking professional help through a counselor, minister, or life coach. Sometimes this one decision to work on self may provide the tools for experiencing a lasting change in a number of life areas. It’s not selfish to work on you first. It may just be the most effective use of your time and energy, and the key to finally experiencing a personal breakthrough.

If you think you’d benefit from talking to a professional counselor about the changes you wish to make in your life, please feel free to contact me. I’d love to help you see your goals become a reality, and maintain the healthy changes in your life.

About Liz Fava, LPC

Liz provides individual and couples therapy for adults, including counseling for dating, engaged, and married couples. She also conducts couples workshops, and training and supervision for therapists.