We feel such promise in a new year. We have a fresh slate, a clean year in which we think we can accomplish anything. We often find ourselves making lists of resolutions, determined to almost be perfect in our determination to change. We will lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, spend quality time with the kids.
Sound at all familiar?
But then there comes the day, shortly into the New Year, we fail. We get stressed, and we smoke that cigarette, or we go off the diet. And we feel like the entire year ahead – that fresh start – is ruined. We had our chance and we blew it. Never mind.
So here’s the key. Don’t resolve to just do something beginning Jan. 1. Resolve to do something during 2010. Decide that you will accomplish it within the year, not just at the beginning of the year. And realize that you will slip up along the way. Decide now that it won't deter you when it happens.
Here’s some clear thinking about accomplishing those goals from a couple of people who have studied the subject. John Norcross, distinguished professor of clinical psychology at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania, told ABC News that there are keys to being in the group of people who do accomplish their resolutions each year:
“Norcross studied people who, come December, had decided to make a change in their lives and tracked the success -- or failure -- of their resolutions for six months.
“He found that those who "made a public commitment instead of a private decision to change" before New Year's and were "genuinely confident that they could keep their resolution despite a few [inevitable] slips" were much more likely to succeed in the long run.
“Also, committing to and planning for a resolution ahead of time was essential. It made resolvers better prepared to put things into action.
“Early in the year, building in a healthy substitute for the bad behavior and arranging the environment to remove temptation were the key strategies of successful resolvers, Norcross found.
“The right attitude was also important: Those who rewarded their successes and avoided self-blame for slipups had resolutions with more staying power.