Resolutions provide starting point to making changes, experts say

Kelly Larson lifts weights during a "Strength and Sculpt" exercise class Thursday, December 20, 2018, at the Grand Forks YMCA. Nick Nelson / Forum News Service
Kelly Larson lifts weights during a "Strength and Sculpt" exercise class Thursday, December 20, 2018, at the Grand Forks YMCA. Nick Nelson / Forum News ServiceNick Nelson / Forum News Service

GRAND FORKS -- Stop smoking. Lose weight. Eat healthier foods.

It’s pretty easy to make a resolution. The tough part is sticking with it, most would agree.

But for those who want to be thinner or tobacco-free or achieve any goal in 2019, there are ways to up your chances of success.

“So often, around New Year’s, people make resolutions ‘on the fly,’” said Wendelin Hume, a life coach in Reynolds, N.D., “but they don’t really think about it deeply. People who make resolutions that way usually don’t keep them too long. And a few days later they stop going to the gym.”

She recommends putting more thought into resolutions.

“If you take a moment and contemplate what you want to achieve -- something that you really want to do and something that you want for yourself -- that is something you will follow through on,” she said

People often fail to keep resolutions because the resolutions “are not sincere; it’s not really a goal for themselves,” she said. “Their heart’s not in it.”

Resolutions should reflect “your own goals, not what others expect of you or societal expectations,” she added.

When making resolutions, Hume suggests thinking about “a couple areas of your life -- health, relationships, finances, your own creativity, emotional or spiritual,” and choosing goals in more than one area “so it’s more well-rounded -- so you’re not just having this one thing,” she said.

Be specific, she said. The goal “should not be like a sticky note -- ‘go to the gym’ -- but rather, ‘get in shape enough to join a 5K by July.’”

Set goals “that get you really excited,” she said.

“Set goals that make you think, ‘Oh, how great that would be if I did that,’ or ‘Oh, I would love that!’ That will be the goal you’ll strive for.”

Attitude is important, said Bob McWilliams, chief executive officer of the Altru Family YMCA in Grand Forks.

“It’s important to think about what you’re gaining, rather than what you’re missing,” he said. “This can make the resolution feel more positive and, therefore, more achievable.

“For example, you may want to limit your screen time in 2019, but that can be more manageable if you replace it with something positive like volunteering or setting aside special time for family.”

Write it down, start small

Write down resolutions “in your phone or on a piece of paper, somewhere you’ll see it often,” Hume said.

“And use positive wording,” she said. “Instead of, ‘I’m not going to eat junk food,’ think in terms of, ‘I’m going to eat healthy meals.’”

Break your goal into “actionable steps,” Hume said. For example, get a gym membership and figure out a time in your schedule when you can get to the gym, she said.

“Even if it’s just baby steps you’re making, that’s important. That’s progress,” she said. “You do need to see progress because otherwise you give up.”

McWilliams agreed.

“Start small,” he said. “Break those big resolutions into small, achievable goals. ‘Getting healthy’ is too broad, so reframe that big resolution into smaller, more manageable goals.

“Instead of cutting chocolate from your diet for good, vow to only have it a few times a week. Or trade your two sodas a day for one soda and a glass of water.”

“Take it one step at a time,” he said. “Trying to change too many habits at once can easily lead to frustration. Instead of a New Year’s resolution, make a month resolution. Focus on that one change for a month and add another, small change when the new month rolls around.”

Hume suggested taking action daily to achieve goals.

“Think in terms of, every day I’m going to work on one goal,” she said. “I’m going to work on this (part of it), and do that consistently. You’ll start seeing that progress pretty quickly.”

Put your goal into some kind of time frame, “but not hard and fast,” Hume said.

“Think in terms of, ‘maybe by July I’ll be there,’” she said.

Tell others -- family members, friends or like-minded people -- about your resolutions, she said, so they can encourage you “and hold you accountable” to keep pursuing your goal.

Team up

Teaming up with others who are working toward similar goals is an effective approach, McWilliams said.

“You can help each other establish a game plan dedicated to achieving your goals,” he said. “Set specific check-ins to help each other out of slumps and to cheer each other during the high points.”

Don’t get discouraged by setbacks, McWilliams said.

“Even though you may experience some missteps, that doesn’t mean you have to give up,” he said. “You need to put that setback behind you and get back at it the next day.”

Hume said some issues require the help and guidance of professionals.

“For some goals, you need to turn to others, especially with depression,” she said. “People think they can will themselves out of that rut. You may need medication or a doctor’s visit.”

It’s not a sign of weakness to seek help, she said.

“Changing behavior is a tough task, even for the most dedicated and motivated people,” McWilliams said. “The new year is a great time to make changes, but it’s important to remember that any change takes time, and the type of resolution you make is a huge factor in your success.”