Jan 05, 2017 12:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

Remember those New Year’s resolutions you made? How many of those resolutions are still active? Forty-four percent of us make resolutions each year, and if you are like 92 percent of people who set New Year resolutions, chances are you are reading this while still smoking or drinking too much soda. But, even if you’ve fallen off the bandwagon, you don’t have to wait until next the New Year to reach your goals, and here are six ways to make it happen.

1. Set small, realistic goals.

Most people fall flat on goals because they expect too much of themselves at once. To improve your chances of success, experts suggest small, specific, and realistic goals. The American Psychological Association recommends changing only one behavior at a time. “The New Year isn’t meant to serve as a catalyst for sweeping character changes,” they said. It is a time for people to reflect on their past year’s behavior and promise to make positive changes.”

Kyle Bradford Jones, MD, a family doctor with the University of Utah Healthcare, agrees. “People set vague or unrealistic resolutions, setting themselves up for failure.” Jones says to set measurable and attainable goals to help you achieve your resolution.

2. Take note of personal progress.

Sometimes monitoring progress every day can become more discouraging than helpful. Instead, Cindy Gellner, MD, a pediatrician with University of Utah health, suggests adopting a broader perspective and focus on how far we’ve come from last year at this time. “By helping children make and keep resolutions, parents can teach their children important values such as commitment,” says Gellner. “The most important thing we can do — and encourage our children to do — when we experience setbacks is to get back on track,” says Gellner. “It’s our job, as parents, to be encouraging when setbacks occur.” She also stresses the importance of parents being an example to their kids. Focusing on progress rather than effort can ignite motivation to keep going.

3. Set goals for things you love.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the things we really should be improving, but Forbes writer Laura Gaskill says we should include activities we enjoy. “In addition to exercise or improving our diet, why not make it a resolution to cut and arrange more flowers in your garden, read one fun novel each month, or throw parties?” It’s often difficult to justify the time spent on “frivolous” goals when we should be concentrating on more impactful goals, but combining our interests with goals for self-improvement can add extra motivation to stay on track.

4. Maintain a positive attitude.

When you are hopeful for the future, it reflects on your ability to achieve goals, and an important element to achieving goals is acceptance. “At some point, people need to accept the fact that this new year, or this new time in our life, brings with it a feeling of uncertainty,” explains Annie Lin, MD, a psychiatrist with University of Utah Health Care. “Plan for the future, prepare goals, but also accept the uncertainty that goes along with it.” Lin recommends we try to be content with where we are in life and stay focused on the present moment. “If you are on a path that leads to your goals, it’s helpful to be content along the way,” says Lin.

5. Invite the peanut gallery

Often the best motivator for keeping focused on New Year’s resolutions is an audience comprised of family members and trusted friends. “For years, I never told anybody my New Year's resolutions because they were always the same,” says Kirtly Parker Jones, MD, of University of Utah Health Care. “I was going to exercise more and lose weight, but I didn't want to tell anybody because they might hold me to it.” She adds, “Well, that's what you want. You want someone to hold you to it. So get a New Year's resolution partner and tell them and you're more likely to succeed.”

6. A screw up does not lead to giving up.

One consistent feature of setting resolutions is the risk of setbacks. But experts agree that a setback doesn’t mean failure. Setting New Year’s resolutions should be a positive experience. It is an opportunity to improve a specific part of your life, whether it’s better health, improved relationships, or stronger self-confidence.

“New Years is about rebirth. And it is an opportunity to be thoughtful and mindful of who you are and who you want to be,” says Jones. “I think New Year's resolutions should be made in a hopeful spirit and a gentle spirit with you self; not full of self disgust or frustration or anger, but a gentle spirit, achievable goals, and tell somebody.”

This year, make it a goal to achieve those New Year resolutions by setting realistic goals, tracking progress, adding activities you love, having a positive attitude, welcoming support, and never giving up. Then you can enjoy the satisfaction of positive change that will last a lifetime.

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