Here we are approaching the second month of 2008 and most of us are saying, "What was my New Year's Resolution? I forgot! Oh yeah, I was going to exercise daily, or I was going to stop… eating goodies, smoking, gambling, drinking, or letting the laundry pile up." Is it still possible to revive my New Year's Resolution?
First, let go of the idea that change can only begin on January first. Change can begin while you're reading this article, or anytime you desire to make some improvements. It takes three or four weeks to develop a new habit good or bad. Most people get frustrated after the first few days . We want instantaneous results and don't allow for the bumps in road in the age of remote controls, instant communication and thirty-second meals, yet change still takes time. Giving yourself permission to be imperfect, make mistakes and have some relapses, are all a part of making a good lasting change. Anticipate and embrace the glitches along the way, and view them as an education, or as practice runs. Taking little baby steps is the best way to enjoy your success and to achieve lasting results. Also, it's important that you're making this change for yourself and not to please or impress someone else.
The nuts and bolts of change really aren't as mysterious and illusive as you might think. Look at a good habit you already have. This behavior probably wasn't automatic in the beginning, and most likely required support from someone else (often a parent). If you think back to when you first learned to brush your teeth, it probably seemed like a big deal. You were probably reminded daily by a parent, and now you brush without even giving it a second thought. We certainly don't feel overwhelmed thinking of the thousands of tooth brushings yet to come!
Many people find success by pairing their little baby-step goal with another habit that they've already established. For example, if you would like to do twenty sit-ups each day, then tape a reminder note to your toothbrush and do your exercise after you brush your teeth. This pairing will probably be successful and will build your confidence, paving the way for other great changes.
Each year millions of people make New Years Resolutions and by January second, millions of people are back to smoking and hanging the laundry on the new exercise bike. The keys to success are taking baby steps, giving ourselves permission to be imperfect, being motivated for you, and making it a manageable change. Little changes can begin right now. You can turn to the next page of your newspaper, or you can go write a reminder message to yourself. The choice is yours.
Rhonda Mateer-Ross, LSW, MED, is a Mental Health Therapist on the Mental Health Unit at Mount Nittany Medical Center.