Surprise: More new year’s resolutions than you'd think still go strong after six months -- in fact, at least 40 percent of them do, according to Dr. John C. Norcross, a professor of psychology at the University of Scranton and co-author of Changing for Good. That's good news, whether your goal for 2012 is to lose 10 pounds, stash a larger percentage of your paycheck aside for retirement, or make flossing part of your daily routine. Follow Dr. Norcross’s strategies for successful change.
1. Make a plan.
Last-minute resolutions are doomed. Think about it: If you decide at the New Year’s Eve cocktail bash that you want to lose weight next year, and then come home to a kitchen stuffed with holiday cookies and other treats, how is that diet going to work out? People who plan for their resolutions -- by ditching desserts and stocking up on produce, or by putting the floss on the bathroom vanity as a reminder -- are more likely to succeed.
2. Break down goals.
It takes three to six months for a change to become part of your routine, but it’s daunting for some people to look that far ahead. Instead of one big goal (“exercise three times a week,” for example) make a series of mini goals, each with an expiration date. For instance, you could promise yourself, “For the next month, I am going to get to the gym at least three times a week.” Then after the 30 days, you could keep the goal the same for the following month or tweak it somewhat. If the gym is getting a little dull, maybe you’d rather take a yoga class with a friend twice a week and hit the weight machines one day.
3. Share with your Facebook friends.
“Going public with a goal tends to motivate people more to follow through,” says Dr. Norcross. And using social media is genius because you can get kudos from dozens of people with literally one quick post. Consider giving weekly updates on your progress to drum up support. They could be as simple as, “Ran five minutes today without stopping,” or “Zero balance on the credit card -- woohoo!”
4. Don’t sulk about a slip-up.
Suppose you’re cruising along on your goal, and then bam, something happens -- you miss a workout, fail to floss a few nights, or polish off a large popcorn and soda at the movies. Before you throw in the towel, know that most successful resolvers get a little off course at some point, and they use their mistake to strengthen their efforts. “Analyze the circumstances that led to the slip-up,” suggests Dr. Norcross. For instance, if you went to a 7 p.m. movie without eating dinner, it’s no wonder the popcorn and soda tempted you. Avoid making the same mistake twice by eating dinner before your next late evening out.
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