Reviving Your Resolution – One Step at a Time

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  • September 2, 2014

Making a resolution is an excellent way to initiate a change in your behaviour and to successfully achieve your goals. When you make a resolution, you are envisioning a new reality. You are stating that you want something to be different in your life. But just saying it doesn’t make it so.

If you truly want to make a change in your life, you must do more than declare your intent. You must put your will, your effort, and your behaviour behind this declaration. This means you have to think differently and behave differently every day if you want to successfully reach your goals. Here is how you can infuse your weakening resolutions with power to make sure that you get what you want.

A resolution is a statement of a goal. Goals that are too big rarely work. If your goal is too big or too complicated, you will be defeated before you even start. Set yourself up for success. Break your goals down into manageable pieces and begin with one piece at a time. For example, if you want to walk up the stairs to the top of the city’s tallest building, you know that you can’t do it with one step. What you can do is to break this goal into the smaller, more manageable goal of walking up the stairs of ten floors at a time. You can then break this goal down into an even smaller piece of one floor at a time and then you begin to achieve your goal by taking one step at a time. As you take each step and achieve your smaller goals of each floor, and then each ten floors you will be able to see visible progress and you will feel successful. These positive results will serve as motivation to keep working towards your ultimate goal.

State your goals in terms of what you are prepared to do right now. We often make goals that are so general and so far away that they lose their power in the present and become meaningless. For example, let’s say you want to lose 50 pounds by the end of one year. A year is far off into the future and losing 50 pounds sounds almost impossible. A more immediate and practical goal would be to begin eating more vegetables and to make a lifestyle change that includes this change in every day. Your long-term goal may be to lose 50 pounds in the next year but by restating your goal in more concrete terms in the present, you can do something right now to achieve your long-term goal. By stating your goal in practical terms, you can begin to see the gaps in your plan. If you eat your vegetables with a bag of chips there is a problem. You can fill in these gaps by adding pieces that will ensure your success. For example, I will eat vegetables and no chips. If you leave these gaps open, you will likely sabotage your own plan. You can add the element of exercise or increase your consumption of water or partner with a friend. All of these things will keep you focused and add support to your will and your effort.

A positive attitude is essential to success. Talk to yourself. Act like your own best friend or parent – be loving, supportive, encouraging, firm, reassuring, forgiving, and fair. Take control of your self-talk – the chatter in your head – and use it to build yourself up instead of allowing it to beat yourself up. Pay attention to your behaviour and act like the kind of person you want to be. Don’t wait for yourself to lose 50 pounds before your feel better about yourself. Act like a better person now and acknowledge your positive efforts. Congratulate yourself when you walk up a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator; smile and say hello to others, appreciating your friendliness; let someone into traffic and see yourself as a considerate person. There are hundreds of opportunities in a day to be a better person and to demonstrate a better attitude toward yourself and others. If you take this opportunity your energy, well-being and motivation are guaranteed to increase accordingly.

In his book “The Art of Happiness” the Dalai Lama differentiates between pleasure and happiness. The pursuit of pleasure often leads to unhappiness through over-spending, excessive drinking, or doing anything that in the long run leaves you feeling guilty and unhealthy. There is a yearning for something you don’t have or an uncomfortable feeling of emptiness that must be filled. Even though that emptiness is filled, the pleasure achieved is momentary and fleeting and the need soon returns.

True happiness, on the other hand, is viewed as contentment and a feeling of peace as a result of living a fulfilling and meaningful life. Happiness is found within while pleasure is found in something outside of oneself.

One study found that participants who completed the sentence “I wish I was…” ten times in a row ended up less happy while participants who completed the sentence “I’m glad I’m not…” ten times ended up happier. Too often people fall into the trap of focusing on the glass being half-empty rather than seeing the glass as half full. When you see what is lacking, you feel deprived, left out, less than, or poor. When you see what you have, you see abundance, you are grateful, and you are happy.

To boost your resolutions, you must turn your focus to what you have: your strengths, your resources, and your accomplishments. Be happy with where you are right now while you resolve to achieve your goals. If you want to lose 50 pounds, be glad that you don’t have to lose 100 pounds. Be grateful that you can walk, that you have friends and family who will support your efforts to be healthier, and that you have money to buy healthy food. Don’t defeat yourself with a weak or lousy attitude.

Finally, use your determination and your behaviour to transform your resolutions into reality. Engage your will, your effort, your positive self-talk, your positive attitude, your talents and abilities and begin today by doing one thing that will move you closer to achieving your goal. Here is one extra little hint. Look around you. If other people have been successful in achieving this goal, you can do it too. Believe in yourself, do it and you will make it happen!

Stephen Carter, Ph.D., R.Psych.
Shirley Vandersteen, Ph.D., R.Psych.