, achieving goals, setting goals, new year's resolutions, motivation, abuse, plan b, diet, exercise, goals, phyllis goldberg ph.d., Rosemary Lichtman Ph.D., commitment, transformation, change, behavior change
"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." Confucius
Over two thousand years ago, the ancient Romans began the practice of making New Year's resolutions when they named the first month after Janus, the god of beginnings. Janus had two faces, one looking back at the old year, the other looking forward to the new one. In order to secure good fortune in the future, January became the time when you ask forgiveness for past deeds and look inward for areas to improve.
Now that you have made your own personal resolutions - still an honored ritual at this time of year - how do you avoid another universal tradition - breaking them? We all know that it's easier to say you are going to give up a bad habit than to actually stick to your new plan. As parents have told their children for centuries, "Do as I say, not as I do."
You may have resolved to finally lose the ten pounds that have been plaguing you for years, to start an exercise program you can stick with, to let go of your self-destructive smoking, drinking or over-spending habit. Or, perhaps you're one of the 50% of Americans who vow to spend more time with family and friends this year. So where do you begin? And how do you increase the odds that you will continue? With the New Year, you have a clean slate, ready to take your dictation. Here are 8 tips to help you fulfill your resolutions:
1. Decide on a realistic goal. Make it a specific one you can attain. If you want to be more physically fit, commit to taking a 30-minute walk three times a week. If weight loss is your goal, resolve to lose two pounds a month so that you are 10 pounds lighter by summer.
2. Make a public commitment. Tell others about your decision. They will support you and encourage you to stay with your plan. Make a pledge to take yourself seriously as you change your behavior and life style.
3. Begin, even if it is not an ideal start. Often the hardest step to take is the first one. Rather than waiting until the timing or situation is perfect, jump into your new routine. As Confucius observed centuries ago, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
4. Continue taking small steps. They will eventually get you where you want to go if you keep moving forward. Don't overwhelm yourself by trying to make strides that are too difficult. Continue to set short-term objectives as you progress toward your long-term goal. You may need to refine your strategies along the way as you discover what works best for you.
5. Keep track of what you are doing. Keep a daily journal focused on how you are implementing your behavior change. Record the pattern of your scheduled walks. Develop a detailed budget and observe how you are spending cash. Write down what you eat every day to give you insight and motivation.
6. Buddy with a partner. Having someone share your journey makes the process more enjoyable. Join a support group where you can talk about your frustrations, particularly if you are working on abusive or self-destructive behavior. Talk with friends and family about your progress or lack of it. See a professional or look to the Internet for information and resources.
7. Give yourself credit for what you are accomplishing. You deserve rewards all along the way - for making the decision to change, for taking the first step, for achieving each objective. Acknowledge the difficulty of your mission and congratulate yourself when you reach your goal.
8. Accept that you are not perfect and that you will fail sometimes. Your path with likely not be a straight line, rather one with several ups and downs. Make a Plan B to use when you can't proceed as you originally intended. Don't be defeated by your slip-ups. They are not a reason to give up on yourself or your goal. Instead, get back on track and think about what you have learned from your mistakes.
Now that you have decided you are ready to make a change, planning how to achieve your New Year's resolutions is crucial. Acknowledge your role in the process and focus on the strategies that work for you. As you use these tips to turn your goals into reality, enjoy the satisfaction that comes from your success in 2009.
© 2009, Her Mentor Center
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. & Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are co-founders of www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation.
They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers' family relationships and publish a free newsletter, Stepping Stones, through their website. As psychotherapists, they have over 40 years of collective private practice experience.
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In a recent letter to his girls, President Barack Obama wrote: "I want you to grow up in a world with no limits on your dreams and no achievements beyond your reach.….." Now that's a strong message from a father.
Some say that the Obamas are the kind of family they would like to be. Michelle has a healthy attitude about parenting that resonates for those with strong family values. And she has talked about her personal struggle of juggling work and kids, not that different from any other ordinary American working mother. More than we might expect, given her training and high-powered career, the division of labor in the marriage has been fairly traditional. Michelle is an involved mom and has said that the wellbeing of her girls comes first.
In their personal relationship, if she's hard on her husband, it's because her expectations of everyone are high. But she's also a realist. When Michelle mentions Barack's flaws, it's to make a larger point – not to put the president on a pedestal when no one can fulfill all our fantasies. Both of them think that having one person in control of a problem can only cause more of the same. They see that leadership model as not the way to run a family - or a country. In discussions, Obama is not the only boss. He welcomes engagement and wants to be challenged. And that comes across in the role that Michelle plays.
As Barack tells it, all the men in his life were fragile, but the women could always be relied upon. In his wife, he sees a lot of his grandmother - the practical, no-nonsense woman who raised him. He likes that Michelle insists he be the kind of father he never had. And just as she is a reflection of his values, their partnership is a good indication of the character strengths and listening skills he brings to the White House.
No family always runs smoothly. And there can be problems that aren't that easy to fix. As you evaluate the kind of support and strategies you need, keep the following tips in mind:
1. Keep your expectations realistic. You may have very clear ideas about how you want your family to be. But realize that every member will have their own way of handling challenges, conflicts and disappointments. Don't think that what's a priority for you will be the same for everyone. And remember that the present state of affairs won't last.
2. Be willing to compromise. With a situation you can't agree on in a family relationship that matters a lot, take the time to understand both sides of the issue. Validate everyone's feelings and try to withhold blame. It's not necessary to excuse bad behavior, but show support for what they're going through. If in the past you have gone underground and then exploded later, don't let these feelings fester. Acknowledge the part that you play in the conflict and deal with it. Negotiating an agreement that both of you can live with is often the best way to move on.
3. Set long-range goals about what you want to accomplish as well as short-term objectives that'll help you reach them. These concrete plans provide the basic foundation and parameters for change in your partner, your children, your parents and yourself. As you successfully move forward, step by step, your self-confidence will grow. Ongoing action and a positive attitude will motivate you to stay on track and ultimately reach your family goals.
4. Look at your situation and decide what works for you. If you need some time by yourself, be sure to fit that into your plans. When you want to reconnect with your teenagers, plan outings that will appeal to both of you. If your parents are up to it, invite them on a family vacation. Your children will benefit from spending quality time with their grandparents. And it will give you free time and the chance for you and your partner to catch up without distractions.
5. Do what is necessary to maintain familiarity and continuity. If you nurture your family and stabilize their environment, they will feel more secure. The structure in their lives and the support you give them will relieve feelings of anxiety or stress. Children are resilient and, as you model positive thinking and hope, they will thrive. The rewards can be immeasurable for the whole family.
In this administration, with a protective mom in chief, one major focus on the home-front will be the first daughters. The goal of these devoted parents is to help the girls find their way in their new environment. And Michelle's mom is moving in for now, to provide a constant presence and keep the girls grounded. When asked about the relationship with his mother-in-law, the president, among other things, said: "I don't tell my mother-in-law what to do." Doesn't it sound like our new president is off to a really good start?
© 2009, Her Mentor Center
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