Resolution Rehab

New Year, old habits? Here’s how to really that grand goal into your “mission accomplished!”

This is the year that the life you envision for yourself will finally become a reality.

Yes, last year was supposed to be that year. It had to be, it was all written down (with a Sharpie no less!) and taped to your bathroom mirror.

Oh, and the year before that was supposed to be the road to a fresh start, a new beginning. Detours are a part of taking a road, right?

Well, yes and no. Serial resolution making (and breaking) is practically an American tradition. While studies indicate that even people who make resolutions but don’t keep them still benefit, if your heart’s desire is to change your life for the better, then it is time for a new approach to how you make and apply those resolutions.

Michele Wahlder, author of Alphatudes: The Alphabet of Gratitude and a Dallas area life coach, says that people go wrong on many fronts when it comes to making resolutions. So how do you keep your eye on the prize? Focus on a few key actions.

Get Your Priorities Straight

“What are the three most important things that if you looked back at the year that you would like to have said happened?” is the question Wahlder asks her clients. She suggests concentrating on those three things to winnow down resolutions. Most people are too broad when defining what change they’d like to make, and they often want to take on too many changes at once.

Plan Your Next Move

Once you’ve determined what you are going to work on, the next step is to map out the steps needed to accomplish it. Making SMART resolutions (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-oriented) is a great start, but you have to take it further by plotting out each step needed to reach the goal. Not creating a concrete plan is the early death of most resolutions. Lofty promises to yourself almost never come true if you don’t take the time to think through every step. For instance, expressing a desire to spend more time as a family is a great resolution. It is more likely to happen though if you decide Friday nights will be electronics-free, family game night. “The details of those little things are what make it work,” says Wahlder.

Wahlder also suggests looking to past failed resolutions for valuable insight on what not to do. “Asking yourself ‘How did I fail last year? What are the things that got in my way?’ identifies potential pitfalls and gives you an opportunity to brainstorm ways to avoid them,” Wahlder explains.

Make it a Group Effort

“Willpower alone rarely gets us anywhere,” says Wahlder. “If you have other family members who want to do things and you make it a family activity and you can hold yourselves accountable, that helps with the support.”

Having someone to talk through the challenges you encounter provides valuable feedback that can help you stick to your plan. A partner can help you recognize what worked on the week that you were on task toward achieving your goal, and what got in the way on the week that you didn’t.

Accountability partners can be as formal or as informal as you like. Friends, family members or co-workers can serve in this capacity, and accredited life coaches like Wahlder have been trained to help people forge their way toward their best selves.

Taking the time to craft carefully considered resolutions can mean the difference between long-term changes in your life and continually recycling the same resolutions year after year. Position yourself to get what you want out of this year. In short: Resolve better, to be better.

This article was first published in the January 2011 issues of DallasChild, FortWorthChild and NorthTexasChild.