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New Year's Resolutions
A Practical Guide

Equal to the tradition of making New Year's Resolutions is the tradition of breaking them.

It could be that we get so caught up in the idea of a fresh start that we get carried away and make promises we couldn't possibly expect to keep. Or maybe we are just in the habit of saying the same things and we would feel almost negligent if we did not.

This year a more practical approach may be in order. None of us need to feel like failures by February 1st (or before) and yet, there are things in all of our lives that could use a little fine-tuning. Our resolutions, though good intended, are often mis-worded and accordingly, they guarantee failure and bad feelings.

Here are some examples of standard resolutions and how you can re-do them to make them practical. In fact, these are probably what you meant to say in the first place, but you won't be putting that "I-must-be-perfect" affirmation in your head.

"I will not let my house get messy, I will keep it neat and tidy"

A noble thought for sure, but it just can't happen. How many of us really have dirty homes? Isn't it more clutter or the after effect of having friends or family over? What have you really accomplished if you keep this resolution for the entire year?

Chances are you will have many a little "spat" with loved ones over their part in making the mess. You will probably also pass on having visitors if it means the inevitable mess that comes with entertaining company.

What if you accept the fact that your home will get messy from time to time and that's o.k? Adjust your resolution to something like:

"I will accept a messy house in order to do other, more important things than cleaning. But I will make sure the mess is cleaned up within an appropriate period of time and I will not let it get away from me."

Don't you feel better already? "Appropriate period of time" gives you all the leeway you need, and yet, by not "letting the mess get away from you" your house will be in good shape most of the time.

"I will never smoke another cigarette. I quit."

I hope you can make this come true. The problem with this particular resolution is that when you take that first puff (and chances are good that you will) you are doomed and will probably go right back to your habit.

Since this is an important health issue and not just a "wouldn't-it-be-nice" type of resolution you must be sure to give yourself a chance to succeed. Try this:

Day one: I will not smoke between 10 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.

Day two: I will not smoke between 10:00a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.

Day three: I will not smoke between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

Day four: I will not smoke before 1:00 p.m. or after 6:00 p.m.

Day five: I will not smoke before 2:00 p.m. or after 7:00 p.m.

Day six: I will not smoke before 3:00 p.m. or after 8:00 p.m.

Day seven (one week): I am a non-smoker.

By allowing yourself ample time to smoke your withdrawal will be less about the "I can't" and more about the "I can". In other words on Day One you CAN smoke for 22 of the 24 hours of the day. Smoke all you like.

You can give up cigarettes for an hour at a time; you probably do it all the time when you're at work or in church or on an airplane.

If this is still too drastic for you, turn it into a two-week program.

The important thing is to make it a resolution you can follow because it is a resolution that can save your life.

"I will loose 50 pounds"

What does this even mean? You will loose it in a day? A week? A Year? If you eat some of the left over Christmas cookies is your resolution dead?

Again, let's be practical. If you really want (and/or need) to loose weight, look at the big picture, not the numbers.

How about:

"I will add at least one serving of fruits or vegetables to my food intake every day. I will increase my exercise whenever possible in my normal life by parking further from the entrance and taking the steps instead of elevators.

I will add 15 minutes of exercise to my daily routine twice a week to start and as soon as I am able (but within a month) I will increase that amount to 30 minutes three times a week. I will only eat after 8:00 p.m. on special occasions. I will increase the amount of water I drink on a daily basis to at least 8 glasses"

This allows you to keep your regular routine with minor daily adjustments. These will become habits quickly and you will find yourself increasing them because you want to and are enjoying the results.

You will loose the weight you need to (which may not really be 50 pounds after all) but more importantly you will be living a much healthier lifestyle.

These are just examples of some of the common resolutions and the errors we make when we make them. Apply this style to your resolutions and I'd be willing to bet you'll keep them and be happy with the results all year long.

Remember also, January 1st is an arbitrary day. If you don't start right on the first, start whenever you can. There's nothing wrong with making a fresh start, no matter what day it is.

Happy New Year

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