Remember your New Year's Resolution? Time for that "Come To Jesus" Moment...
By Kevin Davis
There's a good reason why most people fail at keeping their New Year's resolutions.
"Most people don't plan to fail, but fail to plan," says Harold Shinitzky, Psy.D., a psychologist in the department of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "You should plan long-term goals with short-term steps."
If your year 2000 goal is to quit smoking, for example, take the first small step by getting information about how to quit. Call the American Cancer Society or American Lung Association for pamphlets. Sign up for a smoking cessation class. Talk to your doctor about the health implications, possible withdrawal symptoms, and quitting options and strategies. Then come New Years Day, you'll be better prepared to throw away the smokes without the ire.
Dr. Shinitzky says most people make resolutions without understanding that changing behavior is a process, not a once-a-year activity. "Most people tend to be outcome-focused rather than process-focused," he says. "People tend to use the same unhealthful negative behaviors with the goal of achieving some positive outcome. The reality is that change is difficult. You haven't figured out the steps. You have to figure out how to get there. By implementing certain behavioral steps, we can increase the likelihood of achieving our goal."
Being process-focused means understanding that you will not miraculously reach your goal by wishing for it or making a half-hearted effort without planning ahead. "You have to figure out what are the behaviors that will lead to that outcome," says Dr. Shinitzky. "When you just declare a goal, you're not looking at the process."
For instance, if your New Year's resolution is to lose weight, the first step is to set a goal with an appropriate amount within an appropriate time, medically speaking, about one pound per week. If you want to keep it off, you have to change your behavior and eating habits , the process. You have to reduce your caloric intake, cut down on fats and sweets, and exercise more. You don't have to do it all at once. Make small changes, like walking two or three days a week, cutting out desserts, things you can achieve without much trouble, says Dr. Shinitzky. "If you set up goals you can achieve, it reinforces a positive feeling that helps you go on. And we know that success breeds success."
With that in mind, Dr. Shinitzky has developed what he calls the SUCCESS plan, a series of steps to help people reach their goals. (Below is a part of the success plan)
S=Set Your Goals. Decide what changes you want to make, keeping in mind that you should be specific and realistic. "Lose weight," is a broadly defined goal. A more specific and realistic goal would be, "Lose 10 pounds within two months." Write down your goals and let others know about it, which will increase the likelihood that you'll follow through and get support when you need it. This step allows you to list many goals. The brainstorming is a good starting point.
U=Understand Your Passions. Know what really makes you feel good, what you like to do and use that to help guide you to your long-term goals. If you want to be fit, or to become a better athlete, focus on what it will take, such as increasing your cardiovascular workouts or weight training. This step requires you to narrow your focus to one or two goals. Which goals do you value most? These will become your priorities.
C=Critically Plan Your Steps. Determine small steps that will lead to the larger one. If your goal is to become more fit, you can join a gym and/or schedule a workout three times a week. If you want to drop 10 pounds, map out a diet to cut out 500 calories a day to lose the weight in one- or two-pound increments per week. If you want to quit smoking, try cutting down a predetermined number of cigarettes each day within a timetable until you quit completely.
C=Challenge Youself Through Adversity. That means work hard, push yourself and feel a little discomfort if it means helping you reach your goals. Realize that if you want to lose weight, you might feel a little hungry sometimes or feel a little pain at the gym while working out. Realize and acknowledge that change is not easy. If it was, you would have already accomplished your goal. When it gets difficult, we tend to revert back to previous behaviors. However, now is the time to develop those new lifestyle behaviors.
E=Evaluate Your Progress. Are you making headway? If not, why?......
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