By Andrea Krakower, Scripps Health
Lose weight. Quit smoking. Spend an hour at the gym every day. Find a new job. Resolutions like these are just a few of the thousands being made across the country as 2013 rolls in. While they’re made with the best of intentions, many of them fall by the wayside within months or even weeks of New Year’s Day.
There are a number of reasons why many people find it so difficult to stick to New Year’s Resolutions. Here are some of the most common obstacles, and tips to overcome them.
Setting unrealistic expectations. You may truly want to spend an hour a day at the gym, but if you barely have time to take the kids to school, go to work, make dinner and tuck everyone in, finding that extra hour every day may be nearly impossible. Instead, set more realistic goals that are easier to achieve. Maybe you can purchase workout equipment to use at home while the kids do homework or after they go to bed. Perhaps you could fit in several shorter workouts during the day between your other responsibilities. Make a list of all possible options, and you may find one that is actually do-able.
Making too many resolutions. This, too, can lead to failure. Instead of getting more exercise, learning to cook, saving money and spending more time with your family, pick one or two goals to focus on. Otherwise, you may just be overwhelming yourself, and you won’t achieve any of them.
Making resolutions that are too broad. Similarly, some resolutions become overwhelming simply because they are so broad. Finding a new job, for example, is a much more complicated task than something like skipping dessert or taking a 30-minute walk every evening. Moreover, this type of goal is also daunting because it isn’t completely in your control—even if you make every effort to find a new job, factors such as the economy, the job market and the qualifications of other applicants can all influence the outcome. Instead, break broad goals down into measurable steps. If your goal is a new job, vow to update your resume, join a networking group and learn to use social media to market yourself. These are all measurable, achievable goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment rather than frustration.
Not having a plan. If you’re resolving to spend less money eating out, decide how you can achieve that before New Year’s Day. Will you set a weekly or monthly limit on how often you dine out? Will you buy a cookbook, so that you can cook meals at home more often? Will you prepare meals advance, so you don’t realize at the last minute that you are out of food? Can your family members help with planning, shopping and cooking? When you know how your will achieve your goal, you are one step closer to doing it.
Going it alone. If your resolutions may affect other people, let them know what you plan to do in advance and ask for their support. For example, if you want to lose weight, ask others not to tempt you with desserts and junk foods. Recruit a friend to watch the kids while you go for a run. Spend more time with people who support your efforts and celebrate your achievements, and avoid those who don’t. It also helps to associate with people whose lifestyles already reflect the changes that you are trying to make.
Expecting perfection. Remember that change is a process, and it can be challenging. Give yourself permission to be imperfect. If you miss a workout or blow the job interview, don’t mentally beat yourself up or give up on your goal. Earn from your mistakes, think about how you can do better next time, and move on. And when you do succeed, reward yourself.
Andrea Krakower is the manager of wellness at Scripps Health. For more information on staying healthy or for a physician referral, please call 1-800-SCRIPPS.