Keep the New Year Momentum Going

Emerson once said that "consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." But when it comes to New Year's resolutions, 100% success usually isn't a source of fear or dread.

In fact, with resolutions, most of us think consistency is everything-- which is why it’s so easy to fade by February once we find ourselves slipping even slightly. When we eat too much, miss our target weight loss, or don’t get to the gym for a few days, we conveniently give up-- taking an all-or-nothing stand so that when we don’t achieve all, we have a built-in excuse to settle for nothing.

What, then, can we do when we find our resolutions fizzling?

First of all, review your goals to make sure they’re really yours. While this may sound silly, we live in a world of "shoulds," under constant pressure to follow agendas that don’t have real value for us. Are you trying to lose a few pounds because your spouse thinks you should? Do you play softball on the church team because you got dragged into a position someone else vacated? If so, you may want to rethink your priorities. You’re far more likely to commit to-- and accomplish—goals that are truly important and meaningful to you.

Second, run a reality check on your goals. So often, experts say, the biggest problem in keeping resolutions lies with making them. Caught up in the enthusiasm of a fresh start, we throw ourselves with wild abandon at a vast list of unattainable goals, then wonder why we revert to our old ways. Were you suffering from delusions of grandeur when you pledged to run 40 miles a week? Was it feasible—or even healthy—to commit to a diet of 1000 calories per day? And did you really intend to give up chocolate completely, especially when you knew darn well that hubby would be giving you the traditional heart-shaped box on Valentine’s Day?

If you find your original resolutions a bit too daunting, don’t be afraid to scale down. Reduce that list of multiple goals to just a few, and make them realistic and do-able— instead of pledging to run 40 miles a week, committ to work out for 30 minutes at least three times a week. Besides being realistic—with the built-in flexibility that allows you to move your workouts around—you’ll give yourself room to set a slightly loftier goal once you’ve achieved this initial one. You can still hang onto those other original goals—just add them to your working list, one at a time, as you succeed in meeting current goals.

As you meet your goals, don’t forget to record and reward. Recording your daily successes— as simple as placing a checkmark on your calendar every time you work out—can be tremendously motivating. A row of checkmarks not only shows progress, it balances out the one or two days you didn’t get there, giving you the bigger picture and the drive to push on. And "recording" should lead to "rewarding,"--finding small ways to celebrate your success—telling friends, buying a small item to pamper yourself, or giving yourself time to do something you don’t normally get to do.

Finally, recognize that, even with realistic goals, you won’t always succeed. Giving yourself permission to fail occasionally helps eliminate the excuse to throw up your hands and quit. For example, most of us overeat at one time or another, but when it’s over, do we begin again or give up? It’s what we do afterwards that dictates whether our fall is a momentary lapse or the beginning of the end.

Success is a year-round choice. You must decide what you want, why you want it, and how you plan to achieve it. No one else can, will, or should do that for you.