The idea of New Year's resolutions is not really new. Janus, the god of doorways, beginnings and endings, was usually shown with two heads facing in opposite directions. According to legend, one of his heads was looking backwards into the old year and the other was looking forwards into the new one. Two thousand years ago the Romans ended the year by reviewing it.
And at that time they resolved to achieve more and pay homage to Janus, namesake of the month of January.
Setting new goals at the beginning of the year is now common practice, and the majority of these fall into three categories: lose weight, stop smoking, and start an exercise program. But even more common seems to be the tendency to break New Year's resolutions. Research suggests that the long-term success rate is only about 20%. Chances are, at some time, you've been a part of this statistic. How can you stop the cycle of resolving to make change, but then not following through? Here are some strategies that can help you work it out:
1. Be realistic. Strive for a goal that is reasonable and attainable. Instead of resolving to never again eat the fattening foods you love, avoid them more often than you do now. Choose practical solutions that you will be help you succeed.
2. Outline your plan and have a backup. If you decide to stop smoking, how will you deal with the temptation to have one more cigarette? What about calling on a friend for support or participating in a pleasurable activity instead. Or practice positive thinking and visualize a healthier body - consider that you will breathe easier, cough less and be able to exercise more.
3. Talk about it. Don't keep your new goal a secret. Find a friend who shares your resolve and continue to motivate each other. Enroll in a smoking cessation program or join a group. Tell family members who can be there to talk you through the tough times.
4. Track your progress. Notice each small success you make toward reaching your long-term goal. Short-term objectives are easier to keep, and small accomplishments will help you stay motivated. Instead of being focused on competing in a marathon, begin by jogging a couple of times a week.
5. Reward yourself. This doesn't mean eating apple pie and ice cream if your goal is to diet. Celebrate your success by treating yourself to an activity that doesn't undermine your resolution. If you've been sticking to your objective of eating better, your reward can be a movie or a ball game with a friend.
6. Stick to it. Obsessing about the occasional slip won't help you achieve your goal. Do the best you can and take one day at a time. Be patient as you let a new activity, like exercising regularly, become a habit. And before long, your new healthy routine will become second-nature to you.
7. Keep trying. If you run out of steam by mid-February, don't despair. Start all over again - set another goal to get your body in better shape. There's no reason you can't make a new resolution any time of the year.
Joining a gym, a stop smoking program or weight watchers is the easy part - continuing to show up is the bigger challenge. So what are your new goals for 2010? If you're like most people, you'll be eager to get started right after January 1st. Now that you have some new strategies to implement, resolve to turn year-end ambitions into year-long healthy lifestyle changes.
(C) Her Mentor Center, 2009
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Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is co-founder of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com">http://www.HerMentorCenter.com</a, a website for the sandwich generation, and blog, http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com.">http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com.</a She is co-author of a forthcoming book about boomer women and their family relationships and publishes a newsletter, Stepping Stones, on her website.