How about new year’s resolutions that work?

New year’s resolutions might not seem like a great idea since few people manage to keep them, but making a smart resolution can accomplish a number of good things.

Making new year’s resolutions that are easy to break is a bad idea. Broken resolutions can make people feel like a failure, having fallen short of their goals. It can seem like an example of weakness and can erode self-confidence and self-esteem.

Bad resolutions are resolving to do things that are close to impossible to achieve. Things like losing 30 pounds in one month or looking like an Olympic athlete won’t be possible because someone resolves to start visiting the gym again.

While such resolutions aren’t really helpful and could be detrimental when they fail, it doesn’t mean that sensible resolutions are something to avoid. Resolutions usually mean positive changes. Well-planned resolutions can help improve parts of someone’s life and provide a positive sense of accomplishment.

The key to successful resolutions is to set realistic goals. Usually that means breaking big tasks in to smaller, more manageable units. Take losing weight, for example. Forget about losing a total number of pounds, and instead the goal could be to make small changes toward a healthier diet that will naturally lead to weight loss. Instead of radical dieting plans, have a mini-goal of cutting out one high calorie food each week and replacing it with a healthier fruit or vegetable.

If getting back in shape is the goal, start slowly with things that can certainly be accomplished and build on that as time passes. Maybe it’s just getting in a daily 15-minute walk, which is an easy goal and one that can be increased as a person’s fitness improves.

Similarly, while stopping smoking is a common resolution, trying to do it “cold turkey” is a difficult task. Instead, try an initial mini-goal of cutting by 10 percent the number of cigarettes smoked each day. Or maybe the goal is to simply start the process by contacting the doctor or hospital about smoking cessation programs or stop-smoking aids.

Creating realistic resolutions with attainable mini-goals is a means for developing a plan to reach final goals. As those mini-goals are accomplished, it provides reinforcement to help motivate people to move on to the next step. And that is what makes for a smart and successful new year’s resolution.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Send comments and questions to [email protected] or visit the ACA website at www.counseling.org.

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