Dr Dale Peterson, Resolutions, New Year

Resolutions With Resolve

Resolutions With Resolve

© 2000 Dr. Dale Peterson; © 2006 Wellness Clubs of America.com

One of the rituals that characterize each New Year is the making of resolutions. Many of these involve health issues. You may have resolved to lose weight, to begin an exercise program, to stop smoking or to get organized. If you are on track, congratulations! Most resolutions will have been broken and forgotten by the time that you are reading this newsletter.

Resolutions are made for a reason. We know that unhealthy habits should be replaced by healthy ones. We know that it is possible to look and feel better by making changes in our daily routine. Why then is it so difficult to follow through?

Part of the answer may lie in the manner in which resolutions are typically made. In nearly every case they are general statements with no specific action plan. This makes New Year’s resolutions nothing more than a wish list in need of a genie in a bottle to make them come true.

A key to putting resolve into New Year resolutions is to move beyond the wish list to a concrete action plan. This is actually implicit in the word resolution. Resolution is the act of reducing a complex notion into simpler forms. It is the separating of a compound or mixture into its constituent parts.

An example of resolution is that of instructing a toddler how to clean his or her room. The general statement, “Clean your room!” is unlikely to achieve the desired result. The child doesn’t know where to begin or how to proceed. The complex task must be broken into component parts. The toys must be picked up and placed in their storage box. The books must be placed on the appropriate shelf. The stuffed animals are to be placed neatly on the bed. When the task is broken into its component parts and the instructions given step by step the chore is soon completed.

Resolutions are much more likely to become established behavior patterns if the general intent is translated into specific steps. As each successive step is mastered another can be added until the desired objective is achieved.

Suppose the resolution is to lose weight. A first step might be to give up high caloric beverages in favor of pure water. This can eliminate a sizable number of calories and provides the added benefit of improved hydration. Once this habit has become established the step of cutting back on portion sizes
at meals might be instituted. Another simple step could be to begin a balanced nutritional supplement to provide the body with the vitamins and minerals it requires which generally lessens food cravings. More difficult measures such as eating low glycemic foods might follow.

If the resolution has been to start an exercise program a specific first step could be to schedule as specific time for activity each day. This might be as little as committing to walk for ten minutes after lunch each day. As the new habit becomes established the time commitment can be extended or others added. More aggressive activities may follow as the initial discipline leads to a higher energy level and even greater motivation.

If your goal is to stop smoking consider keeping a smoking diary as a first step. Write down the time each cigarette is smoked and give it a rating on a one to three scale. A one would be given to any cigarette that you “would have died without” and a three would represent those times that you lit up for no apparent reason. Those cigarettes that you wanted but could have put off rate a two. Then as a second step check the diary before lighting up on succeeding days. Eliminate the threes first and then work on the twos. By the time you are down to the ones, the cigarettes you really “need” you will in all likelihood be smoking a half a pack per day or less. This is the time to take the major step of quitting, with your preparation having made your chance of success much greater.

If your resolution is to get organized begin with simple but concrete action steps. Pick a specific area in which to begin. Perhaps you would like to eliminate all the small pieces of notepaper scattered on your desk. Invest in one of the many available business organizers available at office supply stores. Begin by entering new names, phone numbers and notes into the organizer as you receive them and work through the accumulated bits of paper as time allows. A similar approach may be taken to organizing other papers including receipts, statements and interesting articles using file folders rather than an organizer.

This approach may successfully be applied to virtually any resolution. Positive changes need not be limited to the New Year, but may be instituted at any time. The key is to break the desired result into small, readily achievable goals and the goals into specific actions. Focused activity will bring progress, progress will result in greater confidence, and greater confidence will cause you to take the additional steps necessary to achieve success.

Reflecting upon our current situation and resolving to do better can be either an annual exercise in futility or a recurring exercise that moves us onward and upward. The result depends upon our willingness to act upon our resolutions to bring about the desired change in our lives. Making one major change is hard, but adapting to multiple small, incremental changes is relatively easy. Because we are much more likely to stay the course taking the easy route is much more likely to bring us to our goal.

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