New Year's Resolution Makeovers

Learn how to make your resolutions last longer than a passing thought

By Leanna Skarnulis
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

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:

  • Last Year: Get in shape.
  • This Year: Go to gym three times a week, and workout 60 to 90 minutes.

  • Last Year: Spend more time with kids.
  • This Year: Reserve two hours every Sunday for a family-only activity.

  • Last Year: Lose weight.
  • This Year: Weigh 130 pounds and wear my size 10 jeans by June 1.

  • Last Year: Get organized.
  • This Year: Every morning between 8:30 and 9, list tasks according to A, B, or C priorities.

  • Last Year: Be healthier.
  • This Year: Eat five fruits and vegetables a day, walk 30 minutes a day three to five times a week, and limit McDonald's to once a week.

  • Last Year: Get out of debt.
  • This Year: Cut up Discover card, and pay $100 over the minimum payment each month.

  • Last Year: Have more fun.
  • This Year: Schedule fun activities, such as bike riding, going to garage sales, hearing live music, etc., twice a week.

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."

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