Holding on to New Year’s resolutions is like dangling from a cliff as the sandstone crumbles beneath your fingertips. And this is white-knuckle time.
Year after year, surveys show that half of the millions of people who make resolutions will break them before the end of January. A few more make it through February, but only one in five people will have stuck to their resolutions after six months.
Lose weight. Organize the house. Exercise more. Walk the dog. Turn off the TV. Quit smoking. Why do those resolutions to change things turn out to be so monumentally difficult?
"Resolutions are powerful rituals," says Dr. Judith Orloff, a Los Angeles psychiatrist and personal energy expert. "And they are most successful when they are looked upon as sacred exercises in an accounting for your life."
That might sound like pretty heavy stuff for a change you decided to make while wearing a party hat, drinking champagne and singing "Auld Lang Syne." But that’s the point, says Joe Hammock, a Colorado Springs, Colo., psychologist and life coach. "Many people don’t stop to ask what matters to them in life, and so they aren’t able to link their resolutions with their core values."
Take, for example, losing weight. It’s OK to want to fit into those tight jeans, but the weight loss might take on more importance if, for example, it is also tied to values such as staying healthy to see your kids grow up or having energy to do good works at your church, Hammock says.
Making a commitment to yourself is the most important part of the process.
"You might tell your friends you are going to lose 10 pounds, but you can’t fool yourself. You really do know down deep whether you are going to do it or not," Hammock says.
Although January is the traditional time for making resolutions, there’s no bad time to set goals — only bad goal-setting, says Renee Parker, a Colorado Springs psychologist and performance enhancement consultant who has worked with Olympic athletes, musicians and business executives.
An important part of the process, she says, is to realize that we aren’t perfect and that mistakes happen. "If you slip, be nice to yourself and move on," she says.
Resolutions should be realistic and measurable. "If you can’t measure where you are headed, you are adrift," Parker says. That means setting short- and long-term goals within the resolution.
The coaches shared other tips on how to keep resolutions.