I guess New Year’s is the next half of the holidays, and many of us are settling on a resolution or two for how we will improve our lives this coming year. It’s a good idea, too.
No matter how old (or young) we are, there is always room for improvement. I’d like to offer a few suggestions though, to counter the high abandonment rate that usually accompanies a New Year’s Resolution.
A goal is a great thing, unless it’s unattainable. If you think you’re going to unilaterally alter a long standing family dynamic, or get a rambunctious dog to change how they interact with you just from force of will, you’ve set yourself up to fail. The only person you can really change is yourself, and that is hard enough!
If your goal for change requires change from another person, be prepared to accept that you’ve held up your end of the bargain even if they couldn’t or quit trying. I’m not trying to be a downer, it’s just that we all know how hard it is to break a habit. We have to have an understanding (and back up plan) for disappointing results. A lot of dreams and hopes in life are only half fulfilled, and it’s a reality everyone faces.
It’d be nice if we could simply say, “I’m going to be a better friend” and the magic fairy dust makes it happen. But we really need to have spent some time thinking about what a better friend is. Does it mean your night owl partner really needs you to stay up with them until midnight every night, or would say, 10 pm be gesture enough? Would getting the aforementioned rambunctious dog more exercise mean giving up drinks after work with your friends a couple nights a week?
Think through a New Year’s resolution before you set it, knowing what demands on your time or your habits would be altered. Many resolutions get dropped because we weren’t prepared for the effort or time that it takes to make a long lasting change. If you know ahead of time, and have set your mind to “do what it takes”, the odds of being successful go up.
Break It Into Parts
Some resolutions, especially the ones you need to make happen for your health and well being, will be too big to take on all at once. If your goal is say, to lose 50 pounds, there are many moving parts that can break down. It would require a change in eating habits, in exercise habits, in awareness of how much change you can adapt to and at what pace.
Trying to take on many changes all at once if about half doomed before you start. Dog trainers call this “lumping”; ie expecting a perfect five minute down stay from Pooch, regardless of distraction. Take an idea from successful clicker trainers, and break a goal down so you can work on the individual parts one at a time before putting the peices together.
For instance, decide that in January you will adjust to eating different foods. In February, if all went well with January’s changes, you will begin to reduce your portion sizes. If you are still struggling a bit with the different foods, you’ll wait to change the portions a little longer. When you’ve adjusted to different foods and different portions, you will begin a mild exercise program.
If the goal is for your rambunctious pup to get his Canine Good Citizen patch, there might be several habits you want to break. Take them one at a time, methodically, and consistently. Some parts of a plan may take longer than you might have expected, some might go faster. But with the end goal in mind, keep working, and occasionally look back to see how far you’ve come!