So it’s that time of year again when everyone makes big plans for what they want to accomplish in the new year and then quickly ditch them for the easier, less stressful, more practical, or simply realistic way of life. That’s right, it’s time to make and then break those New Year’s Resolutions. So why make a resolution if we know we’re just going to break them? The number of answers to this abound – it gives us motivation, it sets a goal for the year, it helps us focus on ourselves for a change, etc. So then why do we break them within a few days of making them? The issue isn’t that we don’t try to stick to our pledge to never even look at a cigarette ad again or to finally lose those last 10 lbs. of baby weight. The issue is that because we feel so gung-ho to make changes in those first few days we often make the changes too big and too fast to stick. Think of it this way, if your goal is to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet that’s great and healthy. But, if your a person who doesn’t even know where they keep the fruits and veggies at the grocery store, this is going to be a huge challenge for you. You will most likely need to think about how to build up to your goal in steps rather than starting with your 5 fruits and veggies a day on January 1. So here are some tips for making and hopefully keeping your resolutions for more than a few days.

* Make sure that your resolution is actually attainable. If your goal is to reach your healthy weight but you’re over 100lbs overweight, you will most likely not reach this goal by year’s end (regardless of what the Biggest Loser did) and then feel frustrated. So keep in mind what is really realistic to accomplish in the time period that you have.

* In addition, if you’re making a large goal for yourself, you will most likely need to break it down into smaller steps and set mini deadlines for those goals. For instance if you want to eat better decide what steps would be involved in that for you. Maybe the first step is to lay off the fast food, so set a goal to not eat fast food for 2 weeks. Your next step might be to eat leaner meat, so use the next 2 weeks to add chicken and fish to your diet. Keep making and meeting these small goals until you reach “better eating.”

* While we’re talking about these small goals, it would be worth mentioning that the big goals probably need some defining. Our resolutions often tend to be broad sweeping statements like “I’m going to lose weight,” “I’m going to eat better,” “I’m going to do better with my money.” But we never really decide what each of these things look like – how much weight do you want to lose, what does “eat better” look like, what does do “better” with money mean? Without a clear picture of what your goal really is you’ll never be able to make the smaller steps or even really know if you’ve met your goal.

* So, you’ve chosen an attainable resolution, clearly defined it in a measurable way, and set smaller goals if your resolution is too big to handle in a few days. Now what happens when life happens and you don’t actually stick to those smaller steps? Well, nothing really. For a lot of people this is the end of the road and the attempts to make changes are over. They tell themselves, “I’ll never be able to . . . ” When really, all you need to do is just pick up where you left off. Did you fall off the cigarette wagon? That’s fine, take an objective look at what happened that led to smoking and make a plan for if that happens again. Then toss those new cigarettes in the trash with the old ones and re-resolve to quit.

* Now lets say that for some reason, you just cannot stick to your resolution. Maybe you need to look at whether you really want to do what you’ve chosen. Do you really believe that you should add more fiber to your diet? If not then maybe you chose the wrong thing to work on at this point. That’s fine, sometimes we choose stuff because we think it sounds good or because our doctor/spouse/friends/kids think we should. Maybe your real desire is to save enough money to finally take that trip to Paris, not to exercise 3 times a week. That’s great – DO IT!!!

It’s that time of year again – time to toast a new year and a new decade this time around, make grand plans for what we will do in the new year, and then quickly realize we don’t care that much about vacuuming every weekend. The new year is a great time to think about the things in our lives that we want to change, but maybe it could also be a time to give ourselves credit for all the things we already “do right.” Maybe instead of resolving to change yourself, you can resolve to reward yourself and give yourself some credit for the things you already do. Happy New Year and here’s to a content 2010.