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New Year a good time for change

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“I don’t know why people say it’s so hard to quit smoking. I’ve done it hundreds of times myself!”

– Mark Twain

A popular belief is that New Year’s resolutions rarely make it through the month of January, and there is some truth to that perception. Yet it remains a fact that a lot of people resolve to make changes or accomplish goals in the new year and succeed.

According to a 2014 University of Scranton study, a majority of New Year’s resolutions failed after six months. The study reported that 75 percent of those making resolutions were successful for the first week; 71 percent for the first two weeks; 64 percent for the first month; and a surprising 46 percent remained on course after six months.

Sadly, just eight percent totally achieved their goal, but 49 percent achieved some success toward their goal. Those numbers indicate that a New Year’s resolution is not a complete waste of time for many people. In fact, the study concluded that people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

Experts have identified common elements in successful resolutions and developed tips for success, condensed here into seven key points. Use these pointers to make sure you are part of the eight percent who totally succeed.

The first key to success is choosing your own resolution. Be sure it is something you want to accomplish for yourself, not just for friends or family.

Second, pick a specific, achievable goal. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself, such as lose 50 pounds in one month. Goals should be specific. A main reason for failure is vague and unrealistic goals.

Third, decide if you are ready and willing to make the life change necessary to achieve the goal. Don’t make a half-baked resolution and set yourself up for failure. Have confidence in yourself, resolve to make the change, and do not get discouraged. Always remind yourself how the change will improve your life.

Fourth, make a plan. Write down all the specific sub-steps you need to accomplish to reach your ultimate goal. Plan to achieve those sub-steps with a realistic schedule. Keep track of your progress with a written record. List the ways that the change will improve your life. Achieving smaller goals over time gives you a sense of accomplishment and motivation to keep going.

Fifth, don’t keep your plan a secret. Share your decision to change with friends and family, who can offer support and encouragement. Public commitments are more successful than private decisions.

Sixth, if you encounter problems and get off track, forgive yourself. Take setbacks in stride. Review your plan, make any necessary adjustments and “drive on.” Attempt to identify and eliminate the cause of getting off-track.

Seventh, reward yourself when you accomplish a sub-step toward your goal. For example, if you lose 10 of 25 pounds, buy yourself a little gift. This will help keep you focused and excited about the overall goal.

According to the Scranton study, the top 10 New Year’s resolutions in 2014 were: 1. Lose weight. 2. Get organized. 3. Spend less, save more. 4. Enjoy life to the fullest. 5. Stay fit and healthy. 6. Learn something exciting. 7. Quit smoking. 8. Help others in their dreams. 9. Fall in love. 10. Spend more time with family.

If it were easy, a New Year’s resolution probably wouldn’t be worth making. Recognize that it’s going to be a challenge, but a rewarding challenge. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself you can do it. Good luck!

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