The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Keeping New Year’s Resolutions

Watch the commercials on TV this month.  Weight loss programs, gyms, online dating services, closet organizers, and nicotine substitutes sponsor nearly every type of show during January.  I call these “resolutions businesses.”  They are the ones taking advantage of New Year’s resolutions in order to sell their products.  I’ve never seen a statistic, but I can imagine this week is the equivalent of the retail industry’s “Black Friday.”  On New Year’s Day, nearly all of Amazon.com’s Daily Deal books addressed common resolutions.

Typical resolutions change little from year to year as lack of success in reaching goals brings individuals back to try again and again at some of the same commitments.  Statistics show that 62% of Americans make some level of commitment to a resolution and only 8% claim success in reaching their goals. the numbers are significantly worse for people over 50.   Many people want to change, but few do.

So if you are among the numbers of people who want to change something about their lives in 2014, what steps can improve your odds of success?  Here are five you may find helpful.

1.  Write down your goal or tell a friend.   Notice your immediate resistance to this suggestion.  Instinctively we know that these steps increase  accountability.  People who continuously postpone an action that adds accountability often plan to fail.  Your willingness to complete this step will tell you whether or not you are really serious about your resolution.

2. Be specific.  “I will lose 20 pounds” is much easier to target and track than “I will lose weight.”

3. Break your resolution into a series of smaller goals.  “I will go to the gym 3 days a week” is much easier to monitor than “I will exercise more.”  Plus, if you have an interruption in your workout plans, you can pick up the resolution next week and still feel satisfaction.  Losing 2 pounds a month  is less daunting than “I will lose 25 pounds this year.”  If your weight stays flat one month, you can stage a rebound the next month and loose two pounds.

4.  Do the one thing….  Inertia is your initial enemy.  Be smart about what you do at first by making sure you accomplish the one step that simply must be done to accomplish your goals.  If you want to work on another degree, find out what schools in your area offer the course work you need.  Make a checklist of what you will need to apply.  If you plan to start running again, get new shoes or replace your old cotton sweat pants so that you have no excuse not to get up and go.  Leverage that first step by making sure you have no excuse for taking the step that follows.   Make a short list of anything that prohibits you getting started and work that list – hard.

5.  No matter what happens….  Along the way you will have mini failures.  You will binge on Rocky Road or pizza when you intended to have a salad.  You will have too much to drink when you pledged not to.  You can’t change yesterday, but you can say, “No matter what happens today, I will eat right.”  “No matter what happens tonight, I will not have too much to drink.”  Instead of worrying about yesterday’s failure, commit to today’s success.

This step also helps you in long range accomplishments.  Just as you can’t change yesterday, you can’t accomplish your entire goal in one day.  Don’t let the burden of all future days overwhelm today.  Just do the right thing today and then work on tomorrow when it gets here.  This approach is one of the reasons why 12-step programs succeed.  Remember “one day at a time?”  Today is all you have, so focus on accomplishing your resolution just for today.

Individuals of faith will hear echoes of Jesus in these words.  “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:34).  No matter what happens, keep your commitment today. Your faith can help.

Simple steps, but if you will work at them, you can be among the 8% who make positive changes.


 

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