When Elizabeth Dixon started a blog to help people carry out their new year’s resolutions, she decided against a Jan. 1 launch date.
Instead, she wanted to wait until that time when even the best-intentioned resolution makers start to slip up, get frustrated – even throw in the towel.
That time is about now.
“We have big lofty dreams, and it might be attainable, but we have to do it one step at a time, and it can take time,” said Dixon, who is the wellness director at Chick-fil-A but said her new blog (www.biteanelephant.com) is a personal undertaking and open to the general public. “I want to help people stay on track, and right about now is when people are like, ‘Ohhh, I don’t know about this,’ and they can get discouraged.” Dixon’s blog will offer tips for a range of goals, including weight loss, better marriages and becoming debt-free.
The annual ritual of a list of goals on a slip of paper doesn’t face strong odds of success. In fact, 88 percent of all resolutions end in failure, according to a 2007 survey of more than 3,000 people conducted by British psychologist Richard Wiseman.
Experts say we often set ourselves up for failure by zooming in on big, lofty goals without a step-by-step plan for achievement. Can you go from couch potato to running a half-marathon in a couple of weeks? Probably not, but you can walk a little bit farther than you did the day before.
At the same time, it may be hard to overhaul your entire diet overnight, but you can take small steps toward a healthier diet, such as drinking water instead of soft drinks, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet. Dixon suggests reducing portion size as a good first step toward losing weight.
Experts say it’s important to remember changes, even good ones like going to the gym, don’t necessarily feel good right away. It takes time – at least 21 days. That’s about how long experts believe it takes to change a habit.
In other words, patience is the key.
“Someone may say on Jan. 1, I want to lose 20 pounds, and by Jan. 15, they are down 2 pounds and it may seem so daunting, but really, they are on the right track,” said Dixon, who lives in Hampton, Ga.
For Isha Edwards, 40, meeting new year’s resolutions is all about getting in the right mind-set. For her, that begins with calling them goals – and not resolutions – and avoiding the first of the year for getting things started.
She also likes to give her goals fun names such as “30 day spend fast” to describe her money-saving plan. She took on the money-saving goal last September to boost her savings. For one month, she fought the temptation to buy new items for her wardrobe.
The Atlanta marketing consultant still made her weekly trips to clothing stores, including her favorite – Loehmann’s. But for one month, Edwards only looked at merchandise. She passed on what seemed like the perfect shoes and the perfect accessories. By the end of the month, she boosted her checking account by $500.
Edwards feels like she not only met her goal for September, but has seen a lasting impact.
“A lot of times, I live in the moment,” Edwards said. “And I learned how to go into a mall and not spend any money. During that month, I built up my willpower.” Edwards hopes to soon go on a vacation to Italy, and she said, she’ll have enough saved up to pay for the entire trip – before she goes.
Meanwhile, she’s just started a new goal for the year: learning Italian.
Steeling your resolve
Five tips for getting your new year’s resolutions back on track – and staying there
1. Think big and start small. Will you be able to run a half-marathon next month? Probably not. But you can walk a little farther today than you did yesterday. Take those small steps, and they will build on one another.
2. Don’t keep your goals a secret. Start spreading the word to friends, family and colleagues about your plans to improve your life. They can help keep you accountable and can be sources of support. Next time you are beating yourself up over slipping in your goal, they can remind you tomorrow is another day.
3. Keep a daily log. Getting your goals on paper is a good exercise. Track the changes you are making and analyze what’s working – and what’s not.
4. Remember change can be uncomfortable. Even if it’s a good change – going from the couch to the gym can feel downright weird. Give it time, and little by little, these changes will start feeling right.
5. Don’t beat yourself up. No one ever sticks to a plan 100 percent. We all slide back into our old habits from time to time – it’s human nature and imperfection at its finest. So just resolve to get back on track the next day. (One bad meal doesn’t mean a 10-pound weight gain. One cigarette doesn’t make you addicted. And one day of clutter does not put you back to where you started.) Sources: Wendy Ellin, Atlanta-based workplace productivity consultant and author of the book “Enough Is Enough: Get Control of Your Stuff,” and Tom Connellan, author of “The 1 percent Solution for Work and Life: How to Make Your Next 30 Days the Best Ever”