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How do you make resolutions stick over time?

Resolutions are a surprising source of emotional intensity given the common aversion to time pressure and past disappointments. They can however, turn out to be greatly satisfying.

I love making resolutions whether at New Years, or throughout the year. Personal improvement is a natural topic of interest for which I have enthusiasm, which isn't surprising given my profession. However, I have learned that for others, the resolution question isn't always a welcome one.

I'm often confronted with reactions to discussions about resolutions which are emotionally charged with past feelings of failure, a desire to run from accountability or pressures, and self-fulfilling prophecies of inutility at best, and outright predictions of doom from the start. Too often, "resolutions" have been set as unrealistic ideals, rather than achievable modifications - tweaks to the already fabulous, but imperfect you.

Psychologists know that the cognitive schemas we hold, can be crafted into something that supports new beliefs, and new beliefs can be the foundation of tremendous personal evolutions and positive life changes. So, if you're one of those resolution adverse people, hear me out...

Perfection is NOT the goal. Self-improvement is the goal. Any human who understands their own imperfections is welcome and encouraged to try something new in my consulting practice, at any time. New Years, and the human-constructed calendar flip, is just an excuse to take a moment and reflect on what we'd like to hone, and to mark the occasion with time.

It should not be something defined by other's desires or ideals, but something deeply personal, which could benefit from further intention. It should not be viewed as a time-pressured goal, rather something you wish for yourself, perhaps this upcoming year and beyond, which you can evaluate and tweak over time as your needs change.

Too often, resolutions are abandoned as quickly as they are made. The key to transforming resolutions into tangible results lies in the art of creating the right ones for yourself and then following up. A few tips from change theory can go a long way in helping you begin to view your resolutions as something beneficial and positive in your life. Here are some strategies to help you stay on track and make meaningful progress throughout the year:

#1. Reflect on Your Goals

  • Take a moment to revisit your resolutions and consider why you made them in the first place. Reflect on the underlying motivations and the positive impact achieving these goals could have on your life. Make tweaks to them as you see fit. They aren't written in stone, and you should give yourself permission to adjust them in your best interest. Understanding the "why" behind your resolutions can reignite your enthusiasm and commitment.

#2. Break It Down

  • Large, ambitious goals can be overwhelming. Break them down into smaller, manageable tasks or milestones. Being specific can really help - but when being specific, accounting for flexibility and realism is key. Creating a step-by-step plan can make the journey more achievable but also provides a sense of accomplishment as you complete each milestone. Or, if you prefer, setting a period of unstructured reflection (journaling, meditation, prayer, or chat time with someone you trust) can really help you define your plan.

#3. Establish a Routine

  • Consistency is key when it comes to following up on resolutions. Establishing a routine helps create a habit out of the actions required to achieve your goals. Whether it's daily, weekly, or monthly, integrating specific tasks into your routine makes them feel less like a chore and more like a natural part of your day.

#4. Track Your Progress

  • Keep a mental or written record of your achievements and action items. Tracking your progress allows you to see how far you've come and identify areas that may need adjustment. Celebrate the small wins, as they contribute to the overall success of your resolution.

#5. Stay Accountable

  • Share your resolutions with a friend, family member, or a supportive community. Announce the changes you'd like to make out loud! Having someone to hold you accountable can provide the motivation needed to stay on track. Share your progress regularly, discuss challenges, and celebrate successes together.

#6. Embrace Adaptability

  • Life is unpredictable, and setbacks are inevitable. Instead of viewing obstacles as roadblocks, see them as opportunities to learn and adapt. Adjust your approach as needed, and don't let temporary setbacks derail your long-term progress.

#7. Reward Yourself

  • Don't forget to celebrate your accomplishments. Treating yourself to small rewards along the way can boost motivation and reinforce positive behaviors. Acknowledge the effort you're putting in and take a moment to enjoy the journey.

Remember, following up and re-assessing resolutions is a journey, not a one-time event. By incorporating these strategies into your routine, staying focused on your motivations, and maintaining a positive mindset, you can turn your resolutions into lasting achievements. Cheers to many years of progress, growth, and satisfaction!



Dr. Marie C. Dumas, EI
Cybertherapy Consulting

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