Guest contribution by Dr. Joti Samra
The start of a new year seems to be a perfect time to make changes in one’s life. About half the population of North America makes New Year’s resolutions, with the most common resolutions relating to weight loss, exercising more, quitting smoking, and improving one’s financial situation. However, research indicates that by July, the overwhelming majority of individuals have failed in sticking to their resolution, or even remembering what they promised to resolve.
You are not alone in both making a resolution and feeling you have failed in the past. Most people fall into the trap of making unrealistic resolutions with goals that are overly ambitious.
The following steps can increase the likelihood that you make a resolution that actually sticks!
- Pick an attainable goal
The goal should be something that, based upon the life you are living, is something that you can achieve.
Ensure that your goal is measureable. To change your goal, you will have to know where you are headed, and how to determine if you are getting/have gotten there.
Ensure the goal is realistic and time-limited. You may want to lose 30 pounds, but a realistic goal may be to lose 15 pounds this year and 15 pounds the following year. Set a specific period of time in which you will accomplish your goal. As you accomplish your time-limited steps, you can reward yourself for successes.
Remember that small change is better than no change. Get support as you start to make the change.
- Identify Barriers
Anticipate setbacks. If you have tried to make this change in the past, what got in the way of the change being successful before? Problem-solve the barriers that you have encountered in the past.
Identify the pros of not changing the behaviour (this can often help you appreciate why the change has not yet happened). Identify the cons of changing (the reasons the change may be difficult to do).
Establish a specific contingency plan for each of the barriers you identify.
- Implement Change
Obtain a baseline of your behaviour. Track your usual activity for a week. This can often help you to identify patterns in your day and help identify times when it would be easier to implement the change.
Be aware of the powerful impact that conditioning plays in activity and behaviour. Actively working to change habits that you may have gotten into that are not conducive to achieving your goal.
Approach behavioural change gradually. Make small, specific changes.
Make a schedule with yourself to build the activity into your day-to-day life.
- Revisit & Revise
Do not get discouraged by setbacks. If you are not on track with the changes you identified, work to identify the barriers. Were your expectations too high? Was the specific goal you set too ambitious?
Revise your goal as necessary.
Expect & visualize success.
- Reward yourself: Set milestones that can help you track your progress. Ensure that you schedule in regular rewards for each milestone that you achieve.
Reminder: UBC Staff and Faculty have access to a number of health related prevention services through the Employee and Family Assistance Program. Staff and faculty who are enrolled in UBC’s extended benefits plan also have $1,200 coverage per year to see a Registered Psychologist.
This article is adapted in part from an article Dr. Samra wrote for The Globe and Mail (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/ask-a-health-expert/fail-ive-already-given-up-on-my-new-years-resolution/article1355420/).
Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych., is a clinical psychologist and organizational and media consultant. She is the host of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Million Dollar Neighbourhood” and was the psychological consultant to CITY-TV’s “The Bachelor Canada”. She has also served as a psychological consultant and expert to a number of other TV shows and news outlets. Dr. Samra maintains a clinical practice in Vancouver. Her website is www.drjotisamra.com and she can be followed @drjotisamra.