Resolutions: Staying the Course

Just about now the resolve to maintain those 2014 resolutions may be wavering. Somewhere in the "wisdom literature" is the notion that any behavior change that can be maintained for 3 weeks may well survive. So, take that deep breath, remember your reasons for the change, and don't stop.

Good intentions are highly over-rated. It's not a bad place to start, yet intentions rarely provide the horsepower to actually achieve a given goal. So if all you have are good intentions, achieving behavior change is likely doomed to a frustrating failure.

What are some additional "necessaries" to overcome "the wall" or the fading resolve? Well it is certainly different for each person and what helps can be different at different times. My own view on "resolve maintenance" starts with a thorough examination of the original motivation for change. Although it is very helpful to have the support of others, the decision must be driven by a personal desire. Self enhancing behavior change requires a very clear personal ownership of the reasons and motivations. Good health, increased functionality, improving relationships, and adjusting life style issues are all excellent reasons for change. Typically, these generic truths help, but are usually insufficient for long term commitment to a change program. So, dig a little deeper, find those personal reasons to drive and sustain your program of change.

Next, get some data and establish your baseline. Humans need feedback and some way to measure and identify progress or lack thereof. Data can be all sorts of things — pounds, frequency (how often), duration (how long), size, distance, intensity (how hard), speed, etc. Beyond such objective measures are more subjective ratings of energy, fatigue, feelings (up, down), optimism, etc. This feedback loop helps in measuring progress and can keep you honest in assessing your path to success. Another type of data is simply the love, support and encouragement from others who see you struggle to succeed!

Do not stop. This simple idea is also the most powerful element of change. You may fall off the wagon, pause, be inconsistent, defer, scream and yell, cry, rant, or feel defeated. These attitudes, emotions and behaviors are all part of the process. Change is not often easy. Change means you face your struggle to defeat a longstanding obstacle. So wail and resist... but in the end do not stop or quit. Fall down, get up, fall down, get up, repeat as needed. Too often people accept not doing well as a reason to terminate a very important decision to create better health. It really doesn't matter if your efforts are a bit "sloppy". The larger truth here is to reassert your good intention, to re-examine your personal reasons, to permit your imperfections, and to rejoin the struggle after each detour.

Dr. McGee is a clinical psychologist and has provided counseling and therapy services to adults, marriages, adolescents and children since 1980. He can be reached at FamilyGuidanceCenters.com or can be emailed at contact@familyguidancecenters.com.