By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
The new year starts with the best of intentions. This is the year, we tell ourselves, the weight will come off, finances will improve, smoking will cease, relationships will grow and life will be better.
But New Year’s resolutions have a way of faltering before the month of January ends.
Don’t give up on self-improvement, says Deborah Tierce of Tupelo, a professional motivational speaker who is a certified Seven Habits of Highly Successful People trainer. The laws of entropy – energy loss – holds true for people, too.
“If I haven’t challenged myself, I’m getting dull,” Tierce said.
Keys to success are to pick the right goals for you and create a good plan that is specific, yet flexible enough to be adjusted as life changes.
The first step is to clearly define the goal.
“You have to have a vision of where you want to be at the end of 2011,” Tierce said.
There are all kinds of resolutions that people feel they should make – losing weight, saving money, quitting tobacco. But if you aren’t excited about the goal, leave it for another year.
“You’ve got to believe it with all your heart, brain, soul and body, Tierce said. “If you say it and don’t mean it, you’re setting yourself up for feeling defeated. You won’t believe next time.”
Choosing the right goal can cut down on a lot of frustration later, said Counselor Lesa Love McGillivray, a licensed master’s social worker with North Mississippi Medical Center Behavioral Health Center in Tupelo.
“It’s more about setting or maintaining appropriate goals,” McGillivray said. “If it’s appropriate, it gets easier. Challenge yourself, but don’t overreach. Otherwise, you can get discouraged and give up.”
McGillivray likes the SMART approach to goal setting.
– Specific – It’s important to lay out details of what, how and where.
– Measurable – If you can’t measure it, how do you know if you’re making progress?
– Attainable – Is this something you can achieve considering your situation and resources?
– Realtistic – Is it something you have control over?
– Time-bound – Setting a deadline helps keep you on track.
Focus first on what you want, McGillivray suggests. Then put some effort into researching the goal and finding resources to help you along the way. Finally, monitor your progress.
Setting benchmarks can be very helpful, Tierce said.
“Here’s where I started; here’s where I want to be,” Tierce said. “Measure along the way to see if you’re on track.”
Don’t underestimate the power of little things. Swapping a yogurt for a candy bar for your afternoon snack every day, for example, can push your weight loss goal further along.
“Make right small decisions,” Tierce said.
Surrounding yourself with encouraging people can help you stick to your goals, McGillivray said. Family, friends and support groups can help you build valuable network that can bolster your motivation during weak moments.
“Let close friends and family know about your goals so they can encourage you, McGillivray said.
Tierce also recommends keeping a journal. It’s an effective place to clarify goals and values and keep them in front of you.
“Never start a day without paper and pencil,” Tierce said. “You want to keep what’s motivating you in front of you.”
Frequently, revisiting a goal also makes it possible to tweak the goal as needed. On Jan. 1, it seemed possible to eat lunch at home every day, but when your boss adds out-of-town assignments to your schedule on Jan. 15, those goals may have to be adjusted.
It is also important to have a plan to deal with setbacks when they happen. For most people, self-improvement rarely occurs in a straight line.
“We always want to be perfect,” McGillivray said. “Don’t be afraid of setbacks.”