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Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Life - January 2012

Resolve to make realistic resolutions
Effective change requires more than a problem and a promise

"Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results." - Albert Einstein

The new year brings with it another opportunity to make to New Year's resolutions. Harry resolves to lose 50 pounds by June, just as he has for the past five years and has only succeeded in gaining 20 pounds. Jane, who hates to exercise, vows to run a marathon in an effort to get in shape. Good luck with that, Jane. The statistics are against them. Ninety percent of us who set New Year's resolutions fail to achieve our goals. Roughly 75 percent fail within the first week of the new year and almost all fail by Valentine's Day, according to experts. So why do we keep making resolutions we can't keep?

Most New Year's resolutions are about change, usually a significant life change. Yet anyone who has ever tried to change their thinking, emotions or behavior knows how difficult it is. When making a resolution, most people focus on the outcome they want instead of the behavior or lifestyle changes that will bring about that outcome. For example, "losing weight" is an outcome, "eating less and exercising more" are behaviors that can lead to it. In short, you will need to change things in your life if you hope to change things in your life.

Once you have decided what you want to change, success in achieving your goal begins with a simple, disciplined plan of action. Your plan will outline a specific action or set of actions that you can realistically expect to accomplish within a short period of time, like a week. For a plan to be successful, according to experts at Stanford University, it needs to:

  • Be something YOU want to do, not something someone else says would be good for you;
  • Be reasonable, in that you can expect to achieve it;
  • Focus on behaviors, not outcomes; and
  • Answer the questions: What? How much? When? How often?

Above all else, you also must have confidence that you will be able to accomplish your goal. That means managing your expectations and setting realistic goals. Don't set yourself up for failure with goals that sound too good to be true.

With any lifestyle change, start where you are, or start slowly. If you have never done any exercise, start with a few minutes of warm-up. A total of five to ten minutes is enough to get you started, instead of trying to walk a mile on day one. If you want to lose weight, set a goal based on your existing eating behaviors, such as not eating after dinner.

Also, give yourself some time off. We all have days when we don't feel like doing anything. There is a good reason to say you will do something three times a week instead of every day. Even if you don't feel like walking one day, you can still achieve your plan.

After a short time, see if you completed your plan and if you are any nearer to achieving your goal. Taking stock is important. You may not see progress day by day, but you should see a little progress in a week.

Sometimes, your first plan is not the most workable plan. If something doesn't work, don't give up. Revise your plan and try something else. Make the steps easier, give yourself more time or choose new steps. Check that your experience matched your expectations and that your expectations were realistic. If they weren't, re-write your plan with new expectations. Build on your successes, and reward yourself frequently. Rewards don't need to be fancy, expensive or fattening. There are many healthy pleasures that can add enjoyment to your life.

You can make changes in your life, but promising yourself without doing the work to back it up won't accomplish what you want to do. Life-long change requires a plan.

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