By Peter Seymour, M.D.
It wasn’t long ago that we rang in another new year. One of the most common dilemmas many of us face early in the year is making, and keeping, New Year’s resolutions. I think that with a little planning, hard work and dedication, anyone can achieve their goals.
One of the biggest problems people face when setting goals for themselves is not recognizing that self-change is one of the most difficult things we can do. That’s not to say change is impossible, but it is better achieved through a plan with specific steps to help you reach your goal.
The nature and selection of your goal is as vitally important to your success as the steps to achieve it. It’s important to choose a resolution that has meaning, so put some thought into it. There’s a greater likelihood of success if you take on a task or project that resonates with you.
Making your goal manageable is another important step. For example, if your new year’s resolution is to exercise more, plan out what you’re going to do, where you’re going to do it and when. Adapting your environment to your new goal can be incredibly helpful – for example, laying out gym clothes for the morning or getting rid of junk food around the house may make the transition less difficult until it becomes more of a habit.
Other tips that may help include:
- Putting it down on paper. Write each resolution or goal down, and keep it in a visible spot – on the fridge, on a mirror or next to the computer.
- Marking your calendar. Set specific deadlines for your goals, and take them one at a time.
- Spreading the Word. Tell your friends and family what you’re up to, and ask them to remind you of your goals regularly.
- Finding a Role Model. Look to someone who has achieved a similar goal, and ask them about their path to success. Let it serve as a reminder that you, too, can achieve your goal!
It’s important to realize that a significant change is unlikely to happen overnight, so count forward progress toward your ultimate goal. Don’t become discouraged; set backs are normal and it’s important to work through them.
Also remember it’s never too late to set resolutions or goals for yourself. One of the most significant factors in achieving change is a strong sense of commitment – if something calls to you in March or even August, it’s best to start working toward that goal while you’re motivated.
Dr. Seymour is a psychiatrist at Scripps Mercy Hospital. For more information about staying healthy or for a physician referral, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS (1-800-727-4777).