UNDERWOOD: How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

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By Rick Underwood

The unofficial day of breaking New Year’s resolutions is fast approaching. People actually celebrate the inevitable or maybe just use the failure to follow through as an opportunity to party. How are you doing with best intentions to change some long standing habits?

Recent surveys indicate that many older folks don’t make resolutions because they have not been successful in the past in following through. Research has confirmed what every person knows – resolutions or goals are easy to set but hard to achieve.

Since the beginning of time, humans have been goal setters. The cerebral cortex of the brain is one of the things that separate humans from animals.

I’m sure my dog doesn’t set goals or make resolutions. The executive function of the human being is centered in this part of the brain and controls memory, time management, organization, planning, goal setting and goal accomplishment.

Experience and research have demonstrated that the mere act of setting a challenging goal sets in motion the following sequence. When a new goal is set there is usually a great deal of excitement and anticipation that the needed change can occur.

But, as you start working on the new goal, doubt begins to rise.

Based on past negative experiences, you begin to question whether or not you can actually move forward and be successful in changing a habit. As you push forward, questions begin to arise like, “what if I try and fail?”

If you haven’t fallen off the wagon by this time and are still pushing forward, psychological resistance begins.  Thoughts like, “a part of me wants to succeed but another part seems to be holding me back.”

 As you move out of your comfort zone, you find yourself struggling with whether or not you can really live with the change that you are attempting to make.

Obviously, much of this thinking – feeling process happens at a deep subconscious level. Therefore, it is hard to rationalize and find a way to work through the resistance so it is easier to just throw in the towel and give up. If however, you persist you may eventually reach a place of acceptance and recommitment. If you have found that place in regards to your resolutions or goals for the New Year, congratulations.

If on the other hand, you are still struggling to follow through or have given up don’t dismay. You have a great deal of company. Moreover, there are ways to overcome, to persist, and succeed at what you really feel is important for you.

Overcoming negative thoughts that keep you from being successful is possible but it requires hard work. Some folks have become so stuck in their negative “quitters” that they simple give up and accept the fact that they are just who they are.

In order to move to a sense of acceptance and recommitment, a change in thinking about yourself must occur. Your basic values and beliefs lay the foundation of what you are ultimately able to achieve. If you are brave and persistent, you can move to the next level in your job or personal life. Here are a few tips you might want to explore.

Paul J. Meyer, the founder of Leadership Management Institute once said, “Whatever you vividly image, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon…must inevitably come to pass."


Make sure the change is what you really want

If you set a resolution to stop smoking or drinking or eating too much because someone else wants you to, it is most likely that you will not be successful.  Make sure you set the right goal for the right reasons. Be sure you really want to make the change.

Think about your values and what is really important to you. Is the change realistic and achievable? Can you actually see or image yourself being successful? The benefits of accomplishing the goal can keep you moving forward. Unless you have a burning desire and a firm belief that you can accomplish the resolution you will be spinning your wheels.


Outline a plan

Create a realistic plan for achieving your goal. Set mini-goals or outcomes that need to be done along the way. Anticipate the obstacles that will come up and plan a way to overcome each of them. Reward yourself as you complete the outcomes and move closer to fully achieving or sustaining your new habit. You may have set backs along the way so plan for them. If you fall off the wagon, forgive yourself and climb back on.


Be easy on yourself

Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to tell everyone about your resolution. It may be better to keep it to yourself and work your action steps toward your goal. Don’t try to do too much or make too many changes at once. Along the way, stop and feel good about your progress. Don’t make too much of your positive movement. Just enjoy the ride toward becoming a better person.


Get help if you need it

There are many resources that can help you move forward. Books, articles, websites, and personal development programs abound on this subject. Some find it helpful to engage a life coach, executive coach or counselor in their quest.

Make it a great New Year for you and yours!


Rick Underwood is minister at Hempridge Baptist Church and a performance consultant and managing partner of the Leadership Management Institute. He can be reached at nextlevelinstitute@insightbb.com.