Resolutions are a waste if you don’t plan to achieve them

Frame your behavior changes for the New Year so they become a habit, instead of forgotten until next year.

Those resolutions you promise yourself you will keep each year probably look a little like this — lose weight, exercise daily, quit smoking, save money, etc. Though these are great personal commitments to make, one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert says New Year’s resolutions are, for most, a waste of time.

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“Many of us wind up making short-lived changes that rarely pan out. We resolve to be different or live better, and then spend a year not achieving these goals. We waste time making unmet resolutions yearly,” explains Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., a UAB clinical psychologist and author of the book, Living SMART: Five Essential Skills to Change Your Health Habits Forever.

This is not an excuse to throw in the towel and get fat or lazy. Klapow says Jan. 1 is a great time to start living the way you want to be. But, you have to be serious about it and create a game plan so the resolutions are implemented and not squandered.

“Without a course of action, these changes will not fall into place. It’s not enough just to be inspired,” Klapow explains.

If you want to achieve it — say losing weight, for example — you have to be detailed about it. Klapow says you have to outline the days and times you will go the gym, the menu adjustments you will make and who in your circle can help keep you accountable for these goals.

But before your plans get too elaborate, Klapow advises you to do a gut-check.

“Ask yourself, ‘do I really want to do this?’ If your heart isn’t in it, it’s not going to happen. It’s better to be honest than to fail,” says Klapow.

Other tips while planning for the new you:

  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew — shoot for success instead of the stars
  • Make resolutions reasonable by setting short- and long-term goals
  • Be prepared and willing to make adjustments to your resolutions

Once those resolutions are in place, and the New Year has begun, it’s time to implement them. Make promises for change that is life-long instead of temporary.

“Monitoring your progress is very important, but simply keeping a mental track will not cut it. If you are dieting, write down the foods you eat. If you want to spend less, write down your expenses. This will give you a visual account of what is working and what is not,” explains Klapow.

A written record also can help you with the three-day rule: If you’ve missed three days of your new habit, write down the reasons you stopped, pick an exact date to re-start and put this somewhere you will see it. Klapow says this is a way to return to good habits.

Noting the barriers that exist between you and your goal also is important.

“You have to arrange your life for success. Buying junk food for your family while you are trying to diet is not going to help. If you want to save money — stop carrying credit cards. Control what you can control to make your goals more easily achievable,” Klapow says.

Last, and most important, Klapow says you must have incentives to meet your resolutions.

“Treat yourself. You have to be good to yourself and your new behaviors. The principle is simple: Reward a good behavior, and it will happen again.”

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