BY JENN A. NOCERA
As 2011 begins, you may be raring to go and ready to dig into your New Year's Resolution. Perhaps, you have resolved to finally lose those extra 20 pounds. Or, maybe you will quit smoking, start a savings account, or be nicer to your partner. Maybe you will somehow become super-organized and on schedule. While you are at it, you might as well start eating right and working out 5 days a week, too!
You are excited and your intentions are good. Your goals seem worthwhile. And, they are probably things you have put off attending to for quite some time. But, secretly, there is a nagging suspicion in your mind that this year will be the same as all the ones that have past. You have no idea how to achieve your goals for any long-term basis.
As the year progresses and time slips by, you begin to lose sight of your resolutions. You may begin to rationalize them away. "Maybe I'll try again next year." "My resolution wasn't realistic anyway". Or, "Nobody keeps their New Year's Resolution!"
You will begin to realize that you weren't truly motivated or committed to the resolutions you did not keep. No need to despair! This is very common. Resolutions must be realistic, achievable, and most importantly something you are truly motivated to achieve.
Individuals expect change to happen immediately. In truth, in the medical and mental health arenas, it is common knowledge that there are several stages of change. These stages include: precontemplation (not even considering change); contemplation (having mixed feelings about changing); preparation (beginning to experiment with incremental changes); action (demonstrating desire for change); maintenance and relapse prevention (maintaining new behavior over the long-term and recognizing the possibility of having to go through the stages more than once). (See http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000301/1409.html for further details on the stages of change.)
As you can see, New Year's Resolutions often fail with good reason! It is important to consider where your motivation for change is coming from. In other words, is there an external or an internal motivator for the change your wish to make? If your goal is to lose weight, is your doctor or your partner telling you that you must lose weight or is the desire coming from within? Do you "kind of, sort of" want to lose the weight and start exercising or are you committed to doing what it takes to make fitness a lifestyle? How bad do you want it?
The bottom line is that you must find what you are passionate about in order to make any lasting lifestyle changes. If you are committed to starting an exercise program, you need to find something you enjoy doing or you will not stick with it over the long-haul. External motivators may be enough to get you started and give you some momentum, but motivation must, ultimately, come from within in order for change to last. When you are truly motivated, you are passionate about what you are doing and you have a "just try to stop me" attitude!
New Year's Eve is, arguably, the worst time of the year to set "resolutions". People have just made it through the holiday season which comes with changes in schedules, altered eating habits, missed workouts, and all sorts of good and bad stressors. They are usually emotionally, physically, and financially "spent".
It would be preferable to assess your goals on an ongoing basis throughout the year and look forward to achieving new goals in the New Year. Put your goals in writing and reevaluate them continually. It is perfectly okay to tweak your goals if they no longer serve you. Keep a planner, stay organized, and track your progress!
Remain flexible and keep an excellent sense of humor! Remember you are human! Make sure you have a strong support network in place. Rely on your friends and family for moral support. If necessary, consult a professional (e.g., hire a life coach to help you maintain focus and enhance your confidence as your reach for your goals).
As a Life & Wellness Coach, Psychotherapist, and Personal Fitness Trainer, Coach Jenn A. Nocera, MA, MFT, CLSC, CPFT works with clients to redesign their lifestyle habits. Visit her site at www.formulaforexcellence.com.