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Make 2013 be your year!

The following guest column was submitted by Meaghan Heighway.

“New year, new you.” “Start the new year off right!” “Losing weight in 2013 – the easy way!”

These or similar slogans can be seen, splashed on magazines and newspapers everywhere. For many, the new year is synonymous with the hope that they will lose that weight, find that relationship or get that high-paying job.

Whatever resolution you have set, it’s probably been tried before. We love feeling the rising tide of enthusiasm and motivation that comes with the belief that this year will be different from all others. That is a wonderful feeling, but most of us are left scratching our heads, when our dream does not pan out as we had hoped. Why won’t resolutions stick?

– They are too vague. “I want to lose weight” is a great resolution, but it’s so ambiguous, it leaves you without any plan of achieving your goal.

– They are too big. “I want to start a Fortune 500 company.” Impressive, but if you are currently employed, part-time, as a department store clerk, you may have a long way to go, before you start a company. You’ve set an admirable goal, without clarifying what you can now do, to get there.

Most people set their goals, without realizing that there will be some real work involved, to get to where they want to be. We work all day, at so many different things. Who wants to add one more thing to our list? But, if we truly want to achieve our goals for the new year, we need to decide that we can meet them. Then, we can break our resolution down so it is not so huge or seemingly impossible.

Where can you get motivation? Ideally, it would come from within yourself (intrinsic motivation), but we sometimes need a nudge, to get to that point.

Deciding why you picked your resolution can help you clarify what your motivation is. Let’s say you decided to lose weight. Are you doing it because your current weight is endangering your health and your doctor told you to lose weight, or else? Are you doing it because you’re hoping it will increase your chances of landing a significant other? Are you doing it for you – so that you look and feel better as you go about your day? Are you doing it so that you can run a 5K for charity benefiting cancer research?

Whatever motivation you most identify with is something that will keep your focus on that goal. It must be so important that you don’t mind (much) putting the effort into it. Keeping up motivation is easier now than it’s ever been. Take advantage of motivational websites, tickers, emails and other things that you can access easily and which will keep you on track with your goal.

Do a Web search for “motivational tools.” Keep in mind that these are only tools. They will not work if you do not use them. If you decide to ignore your chosen resource for the day, it cannot help you. Only you can choose to use the tools you’ve decided to have as motivational help.

Another thing that makes keeping these goals difficult is making them too big. Until we decide that they are worth the effort and that we will take baby steps to obtain our goal, we may be setting ourselves up for frustration.

Say you looked inside your closet one day and decided you would overhaul it and put a new organizing system in place. Then you looked in your closet and realized you couldn’t even see the floor, through the jumble of accumulated things. It was such an overwhelming mess, you didn’t know where to start, and so, you backed down for another day. But, if you keep backing down, the closet will never be organized!

Try setting a timer for 10 minutes. During that time, just work on a closet. Pull stuff out, see what you have, decide what’s to stay and what can be donated, sold, or thrown out and make note of what you need to purchase. Knowing that you have a 10-minute limit makes it much easier to swallow such a huge task. Once you have mastered 10 minutes a day, make it 20 and keep adding time, until the project is finished.

Another reason we struggle with resolutions is because the goal is often not the only thing that requires work from us. We may actually need an entire life makeover. That sounds horrifying. Who has time for a life makeover? But it can actually be simple. Your life is made up of habits and, once you’ve identified ones you want to change and the ways to do so, you are well on your way.

We do many things without even thinking about them, like eating chips, while watching the evening news. But if we become conscious of our habits, we are better equipped to change them. Try writing in a habit journal for a week. Write everything down, during a 24-hour period (i.e. “Woke up at 6:30. Hit snooze once. Got out of bed at 6:40 and headed to the bathroom. Brushed my teeth and took a shower. Went downstairs and ate toast with peanut butter, cereal and three cups of coffee for breakfast”).

Initially, it will seem like your diary is agonizingly detailed, but that is the point. If you are not aware of your automatic habits, you will not even know what to change. To cut back on caffeine, try trimming those three cups of breakfast coffee down to two and then, slowly, to one. We can become quickly disappointed with our goals and throw in the towel. Ask the following:

– Is my goal achievable? For example, is it reasonable to want to lose 300 pounds? Sure, but you must realize it will take a while and a lot of dedication.

– Why am I choosing this goal? Am I doing it because I want to impress someone, or because I genuinely want to meet my dream? Dreams are usually more likely to become realities if we are doing something because we feel devoted to it, not because we’re trying to get on someone else’s good side.

– What can I do to make this goal easier? Break your larger goal down, into small, concrete steps. Take those steps daily. Find an accountability partner or motivational tools to help keep you on track.

You can do it! This year can be different, if you make some changes. You are not alone. Men and women just like you have done what you’re going to do, and they have succeeded. You will, too, if you make the changes necessary to achieve your dream.

Meaghan Heighway is a counselor affiliated with Christian Counseling Ministries and said she loves being able to help people in her hometown of Springville. Her weight loss group “Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desires with God, Not Food,” will begin in February. Look for more information in future editions of the Journal.

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