Dear Dr. Vail,
I am trying to decide what my New Year's resolutions for 2013 should be. I would like to loose some weight, and I know I should start saving for my retirement, and exercising more is always a good idea, but this year I am not sure if I should even bother starting.
I have the same goals every year, but don't seem able to keep my new goals going for more than a month or two. I always make them, but have a hard time keeping them.
As a result, come March, I end up feeling disappointed in myself and am beginning to think New Year's resolutions cause more trouble than good. Do you have any advice for me?
Signed Same Old Thing,
Year After Year
Dear Same Old Thing,
Almost everyone I know thinks about making New Year's resolutions. However, you are not alone with your difficulties in sticking with your goals. Any time people try and make or break a habit it takes much longer to establish the new habit than they think. This often leads to being disillusioned or disappointed and the habit not sticking.
Research shows it takes at least 28 days to make or break a habit. This is 28 days of consistently sticking with your goal, day in and day out. Most people are bored by the fourth day, and as a result, they give up on their goals and feel bad about themselves instead.
I recommend instead of making the same old New Year's resolutions year after year, make New Life resolutions. Come up with a vision of what you want your life to be like and create your plan from there, because when you don't know where you are going, any road will do.
Once you have a vision of the life you want to be living, one life for example, where you are carrying less weight, have more money or feel better because your blood is pumping and your muscles are toned, you will have a clearer vision of why you are taking the steps to reach your goals and then, more likely, will be able to maintain your new habits to keep your goals in place.
I believe New Year's resolutions are a good idea, however, if we break down the concept behind them, maybe there is no need to make specific resolutions. Most people want to be healthier, to take better care of themselves, to indulge in their vices less and make better choices. Most people tend to direct their resolutions at themselves. Most people tend to be selfish and to think about themselves first. This is human nature. However, behind almost every New Year's resolution I have ever heard is the desire to be better.
The desire to be better can be extend far beyond our selves. When we consciously create a better vision for our lives, we simultaneously create a better life for those around us. Having the life goal of being a better version of your self is a fabulous motivator for positive change. Strive to create a better version of yourself for yourself and others to enjoy.
By creating a better version of ourselves, in all areas, we generate positive infectious energy that can have a profound impact on the world and those who share it with us. So my advice to you is, instead of making specific New Year's resolutions for 2013, make a New Life resolution to be a better version of yourself. Strive to be better to yourself, to others and to the Earth. This is a life goal that likely will be easier to establish and maintain as a New Life resolution for 2010 and beyond. I would love for you to join me in sharing the same goal.
Happy New Year!
- Dr. Amy Vail, M.A., Psy. D., is a clinical psychologist with a private practice Squaw Valley, and a bilingual psychologist at the Tahoe Forest Hospital's Gene Upshaw Memorial Cancer Center in Truckee. She works with couples and individual adults and adolescents to find healthier, satisfying ways to live. She can be reached at 530-581-2539. To submit a question for Dr. Vail, email Drvail@exwire.com, subject, Ask Dr. Vail.