A new year is a great time to reflect on what a good year means for you. What do you need to have a healthy, happy year? What are your achievable goals in various major areas of life:

You may have more categories than this, but the principle for making your resolutions come true is the same whatever they are. For each area, it is useful to think about what you are and are not willing to do in order to make it happen. For example, for weight control, deprivation is unsustainable, rarely working for any length of time. So, rather than focus on what you have to give up, identifying a long list of healthy foods that you love and all the great ways that you can enjoy them will be more effective. The same is true for exercise – if you do not love it, you will not keep it up, so find a way to love your exercise: find a sport you enjoy, work out with a friend, do your workouts on an outdoor parcourse in a beautiful setting, and rejoice after every workout at every tiny bit of increasing strength and health. Working on your finances may be a nuisance, but celebrating your increasing competence and control will enable you to find some enjoyment in the process.

For every goal, focus on the power, strength, and capacity you will build by following your resolution. Counter any notions of deprivation by focusing on how much control and power following your chosen action gives you over your behavior and your life. Many people think you need willpower to do the right thing, but the truth is, willpower is like a muscle – it is easily fatigued initially, but becomes stronger as you train and use it, so build up your tolerance for using it slowly and do not over-tax it.

The more detailed your vision of what you want and the more clearly your vision is connected to what you are willing and able to do, the greater your chances of achieving your goals. Envision your life as it will be when you have accomplished the change – how good it feels, how proud you are of what you have done and your self, and how much you are able to do as a result. Writing about or drawing your vision will make it even more powerful. Putting your vision or resolution on your wall where you can see it often will increase your chances for achieving them.

The greatest strategy for successful accomplishment of resolutions is to make following your resolution easy and not following it difficult. For each change that you want to make, think about the sequence of changes needed to better re-arrange or manage your space, schedule, or thinking to facilitate your resolutions. The most common example is to remove food that you know to be unhealthy from your home and to avoid places that sell such things. Another might be looking at cookbooks to find appealing recipes for meals that would help you achieve your food resolution. Making sure that all the ingredients for these recipes are on hand would also improve your chances of following your resolution. If you want to encourage exercise rather than sitting on the couch, pile your exercise clothes, shoes and equipment where you normally sit to watch TV, and hide the remote or at least make it difficult to get at. Every positive or harmful habit has cues, other behaviors or items in your surroundings that evoke particular behaviors. Carefully observations will lead to learning how to set up your cues in favor of your best interests and resolutions.

For every goal or resolution you have, spend some time exploring what it will really take to accomplish it:

Avoid trying to make too many changes all at once. As an example, you cannot go from being a couch potato to a marathon runner in a single pass, nor should you – you would only injure yourself, leading to not being able to exercise at all for a long time. So with exercise and many other constructive behaviors, you need to create an effective strategy for gradual implementation so to avoid setbacks that would undermine your plan.

Rather than pushing to implement a major behavior change all at once, work for consistency. Whatever small steps you elect to do on your road to change, your likelihood of success will be greater if you do them every day. Twenty-one sequential days following your new regimen are needed to really make any new habit permanent.

Keep in mind – it is rare for anyone to be successful in making big changes. It is usually more effective to make small changes and faithfully maintain them every day. They will add up to very big change. All change is a function of perseverance and determination.

There is also no such thing as changing tomorrow: the only moment that any of us ever has any real control over is right now, this second. As magical as the turn of the new year is, the truth is, you never have to wait for a new year – start transforming your life into the life you want as soon as you are clear on what you want.

© Gloria Valoris, 2013

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