Here are some practical strategies for getting those goals back on track
A week has passed since New Year’s Day, and if tradition holds, those resolutions you made are already mostly broken.
"Chances are high that you may have fallen off the wagon," said local lesbian therapist Candy Marcum, founder of Stonewall Behavioral Health. "Get back on. Don’t be demoralized."
She said that resolutions should be living documents that you amend.
"If your goal is to lose 25 pounds, but you’ve never done that, let’s try 2 pounds a month instead," Marcum said.
Resolutions are made with the best of intentions but usually without a plan to accomplish them.
"We’re serious that we want something to change, but we don’t have a strategy on how to get it done," she said.
She used getting more exercise as an example. Find a workout partner. Prepay a pilates or spin class. Make a schedule. Marcum said we’re more likely to be there for someone else than for ourselves. We’ll drag ourselves to a class when someone else expects us to be there. A partner helps us be more accountable.
In choosing a partner, Marcum suggested someone other than a life partner. She said we often become competitive with a life partner, and achieving resolutions are about encouragement, not competition.
Saving money is another resolution that often gets broken. Having an amount automatically deducted from a paycheck is the easiest way to make sure savings grow. But someone who is self-employed or without that automatic deduction option should follow the rule, "Pay yourself first." Marcum suggested that if you haven’t been good with saving in the past, set up an account that you cannot easily access such as an investment account or a savings account without checks or a debit card. Make a weekly or monthly deposit in an amount that will add up but will not hurt. She said $25 a week is something that will make a difference and most people should be able to afford.
"What’s that, Starbucks daily?" she said.
Quitting smoking is a great goal for the new year, but without a plan, it usually won’t work. How will you quit? Cold turkey? Marcum suggested a new non-nicotine prescription drug called Chantix but said to discuss the side effects with a doctor before asking for the medication.
What if you planned to quit smoking and already began smoking again? Or planned to lose weight and haven’t done anything about it? Or planned to exercise more and still haven’t made it to the gym?
Marcum said that’s called "breaking" — or, in a 12-step program, "a slip." She said slips are part of recovery. Look at the slip as an opportunity. Re-evaluate your plan. Take another look at your diet and double check the goal. Make sure the goal is achievable. Give yourself a challenge, but make sure it’s attainable.
This year, Marcum said her favorite resolution was one that a friend asked her to make. They resolved to see each other more. She said that’s a great resolution.
"I’m not giving anything up," she said. "Make one that’s fun."
Melissa Grove, executive director of Legacy Counseling Center, agreed. Legacy provides mental health services to people with HIV/AIDS.
Grove said the beginning of the year is a time to start fresh. Make plans to do things you want to do.
Grove suggested taking a pad and listing things you would like to accomplish during the coming year. She mentioned all sorts of things that go on her own list — restaurants she would like to try, people she wants to spend more time with, books she wants to read, as well as larger goals like losing weight and exercising.
Then she said to check them off as you get them done. Make sure the items you cross off are still readable, she said, so that at the end of the year you can take a look at how many things you’ve actually accomplished.
And it’s not too late to start. The beginning of the year is always a good time to make the list, but Grove suggests taking a few weeks to fill it out, and as some things are accomplished, add new ones.
She said she especially loves getting more than one thing accomplished at a time. Take someone you want to spend more time with to a restaurant you want to try.
Marcum said that accomplishing some New Year’s goals gives you esteem and confidence. "It’s important to win," she said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 8, 2010.
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