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Make Those New Year's Resolutions Stick

When it comes to following through on those annual goals, soul searching and recruiting some help are some of the tips served up by a few local experts.

It's that time of year again when we vow to be our best selves. We chatted up a few local experts on the most efficient ways to make sure those New Year's resolutions turn into accomplishments.

The importance of setting goals and specifically writing them down is often supported by the story of a study of Harvard or Yale graduates that found 3 percent of graduates with written goals earned 10 times as much as the 97 percent without written goals. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University in San Rafael says that oft-quoted study never actually happened, but her own research backs up the basic premise that setting goals and making plans is a good thing. Her research found a 33 percent increase in goal attainment if you write down your goal, tell a friend and send weekly updates to that friend.

Setting goals like New Year's resolutions is known to be extremely important to success. Without lofty goals, most successful people wouldn’t be nearly as successful as they are. Even if they don’t reach the stated goal, they end up higher than they otherwise would have.

“On the negative side, unless done properly, just making a resolution does not have the stick-to-itiveness that leads to lasting results,” says Ben Kline of Clarity Performance. The three most important tools you can use to improve your goal attainment, according to Matthews, are writing down your goals, committing to goal directed action, and holding yourself accountable. 

Setting the right goal is the first step and this is a soul searching activity. Use your intuition and life experience, and don’t be influenced by those around you or the culture at large. Writing your goals down is the next step. Written goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Action-oriented, Realistic, and Time bound (SMART). So instead of declaring you want to lose 20 pounds, say you’re going to lose 20 pounds (measureable) of fat (specific) within 12 months (time bound and realistic), by doing x, y and z (action oriented) on these specific days (realistic).

Remember to set goals around habits and actions that you can affect rather than simply the outcome such as the amount of weight lost or dollars earned. Resolve to change your actions and your results will follow.

Increasing the stick-to-itiveness, or unshakeable commitment to your action steps, can take many forms. Dr. John Deri, a Mill Valley psychiatrist and triathlete advises that you:

  • Expect setbacks, prepare for them and use them as learning tools
  • Develop a mantra of positive self talk to generate self confidence and pick yourself up when you need it
  • Insulate or cut yourself from the negative influences of others
  • Identify your own self defeating beliefs (your excuses and rationalizations) and work tirelessly to overcome them
  • Take responsibility for your performance
  • Visualize yourselves reaching your goals

We cannot make ourselves accountable. We need help with that. “That go-it-alone, pioneer mentality doesn’t work for reaching goals,” says Deri. He recommends you recruit able helpers - usually not your spouse or best friend. They would be a coach, a therapist, a personal trainer, a support group or a workout buddy. They need to be the person who can demand you do your homework without fear of losing the relationship.

So search your soul this week and if you find there are some changes that you would like to make in the coming year, don’t be afraid to resolve to do things differently. Set a goal, make some action plans and enlist the help of a someone to hand in your homework to on a weekly basis.

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