I made a New Year’s Resolution to give up sugar. This was really a new thing for me as typically, I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions. I feel we, as a society, set all of these goals and then somehow when we don’t see we’re making it, we give up and just go back to whatever the bad behavior was before (case in point, last year when I was at the gym in January I could barely ever find a bike or treadmill. By March, any piece of machinery I wanted was open pretty much any day or time of the week).
I knew with my resolution I was setting myself up for failure. My birthday was two days later and I specifically wanted Rocky’s pizza and Dairy Queen Cake. No willpower in the world was going to get me through that night with my husband and kids. I mean, can I deny myself cake in front of my own children? Dairy Queen Cake? And the next night, wouldn’t it be rude of me not to eat the dessert my husband ordered for my birthday with him? Or drink the wine my friend ordered for me while we watched the Packers game?
In reality, what I did was make excuses so I could actually break the success of my own resolutions or, what I like to say is, the likelihood of my reaching my goals. Resolutions are really nothing more than goals – it’s not a matter of willpower but adaptability in changing behaviors and understanding the positive consequences, which result. Point noted: less sugar equals more energy, less cavities, maybe even some weight loss. It’s not about wishing it so or willing it so, it’s about having a plan to make it so. Here are some tips to be successful in your plan (from Aubrey Daniels, behavior scientist):
1. Plan consequences for behavior change. Allow yourself to do things you like contingent on a certain accomplishment. In other words, if you resolve to do some project in your house, commit to getting it done before you sit down to watch your favorite TV program.
2. Set very small sub-goals. The more, the better. If weight loss is a target, set a goal of no more than one pound a week. The trick is to set a goal you are almost sure to reach. Less than a pound is ok if you can reliably measure it on your scales. Or, smoke one cigarette less per day. Walk around the block. No goal can be too small at the beginning.
3. Post a graph of your progress at home or in the office where everyone can see it. Set the parameters so progress is easy to see. Tell family and co-workers what you are doing. Use social media to show results. Put the graph on Facebook, Twitter, etc. The more people who see your progress will reinforce your goal and in return you will be more motivated to keep at it.
4. Celebrate every success (every goal accomplishment), no matter how small. Reward yourself. Publicize your small accomplishments. “I am one step closer to finishing the big report.”
5. In addition to rewards that cost money (buying something for yourself, dinner at a fancy restaurant, a movie, some new software for your computer, an iPad, etc.) think of low- or no-cost rewards. Use the “IF I do X, then I will do Y” contingency. Or, “when I do X, then I will do Y.” You will be surprised how quickly you finish the task with this simple start as long as you maintain the contingency “When…then.”
What are your goals and what behavior changes will you make so you can reward yourself with the consequences?
If you have all ready broken your New Year’s Resolution – don’t worry most of us have. What’s most important is that you get a goal set now and keep working at it every day. Change isn’t easy. Just take it one step at a time.