New Year's Resolution Makeovers
Learn how to make your resolutions last longer than a passing thought
By Leanna Skarnulis
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson, MD
What does Valentine's Day have to do with New Year's resolutions? By then, most resolutions to exercise, lose weight, get out of debt, and others have fallen by the wayside, say experts in achievement motivation theory and goal setting. But don't let a history of failed resolutions stop you from aspiring to grow and achieve. Make this the year for resolution makeovers.
Start by phrasing your resolutions in ways that make them specific, measurable, and positive. WebMD asked Gary Ryan Blair, author of Goal Setting 101: How To Set and Achieve a Goal, and Sally A. White, PhD, authority on achievement motivation theory, for help with makeovers of common resolutions. For example:
Be Specific, Measurable, and Positive
Blair, who lives in Syracuse, N.Y., tells WebMD why saying, "Weigh 130 pounds and wear my size 10 jeans by June 1" is a better resolution than "lose weight." "Our minds work best when we give it a specific target." The brain works like a pilot light, and once you specify what you want with complete certainty this helps set your mind to work on it."
The first statement is also measurable, which means you'll know where you stand and whether your efforts are having the desired result. Using the scale once a week will tell you if you need to modify your behavior in order to achieve your goal weight.
In addition, the first statement is time bound, with a deadline for achieving your goal weight and size. "Take a page out of sports," says Blair. "The time on the clock is important. If there's two minutes left in the game and you're behind significantly, you play aggressively, not conservatively."
And it's positive. "Never set a goal of losing or quitting," says Blair. "That empowers weakness. Position yourself forward on what you want to be or where you want to go, not what you'll give up."Success Strategies
Seems there really are two kinds of people, at least when it comes to what motivates them to stick to a plan or goal. "Research in adherence motivation tells us that strategies have to fit individuals' orientation and very different perceptions of what equals success," says White, who is professor and dean at Lehigh University College of Education in Bethlehem, Penn. "The field speaks of task and ego orientation, and nearly 45 studies show women to be more task oriented and men to be more ego oriented."
Task and ego orientation are each characterized by three key motivators. The task-oriented person is motivated when:
The ego-oriented person is motivated when:
"If a task-oriented person resolves to stop smoking, they'll join a support group and put effort into strategizing, such as learning which night clubs are nonsmoking," says White. "But they won't just practice avoidance, because that wouldn't be challenging. They'll say, 'When everyone else has a cigarette, I'll go 20 minutes without one, and if I still want a cigarette, I'll have just one.'
"The ego oriented person will use the patch or another aid and place a bet with two or three buddies they think they can easily beat, and they'll choose those buddies very carefully. They'll have a high value placed on the bet."
Making the Most of Your Resolution Makeover
Now that you understand the power of a resolution makeover, you can see why most New Year resolutions never last until Valentine's Day. Resolutions require hard work and commitment. "Making a resolution needs to be as highly considered as anything else you do to bring about change," says White. "You have to want to change the behavior."
Blair identifies four characteristics of people who stick to their resolutions:
Originally published Dec. 29, 2003.
Medically updated Nov. 19, 2004.
SOURCES: John Acquaviva, PhD, assistant professor, health and human performance, Roanoke College, Salem, Va. Gary Ryan Blair, Syracuse, N. Y., author, Goal Setting 101: How To Set and Achieve a Goal. Sally A. White, PhD, professor and dean, Lehigh University College of Education, Bethlehem, Penn.
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Last Editorial Review: 1/31/2005 7:20:06 AM