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New Year's Resolution Makeovers

Learn how to make your resolutions last longer than a passing thought.

Success Strategies

  • Be clear about what you want and your motivation. Blair, who calls himself "The Goals Guy," proposes a "1-3-5 system" to set you on the road to success; one "what," three "whys," and five "hows." The "what" is your resolution. Then come up with three reasons why you want it. "This will be very personal, such as increased self-esteem, peace of mind, wanting to live long enough to enjoy grandchildren, etc.," he says. The "hows" are the action steps you'll take to achieve your goal.
  • Make resolutions that are challenging, yet realistic. If you want to grow intellectually by reading more, resolving to read one book a year isn't something you'll get excited about and won't do much for your intellectual prowess. And resolving to read one book a day will probably spell failure. Knowing what will be challenging, yet realistic, might take some trial and error. Experts are quick to say that resolutions should not be written in stone, but are always subject to change.
  • Write down your resolutions, and post them where you'll see them every day. Writing your resolutions helps you clarify what you want. Posting them reinforces your commitment. "Goals out of sight become goals out of mind," says Blair.
  • Break down long-term resolutions into smaller action steps. For example, if your resolution is to be free of the smoking habit by March 1, determine that you'll limit yourself to one pack of cigarettes, the first week, one-half pack the second week, etc.
  • Seek drama. "If you are trying to quit smoking, listen to a person with throat cancer talk about smoking," says John Acquaviva PhD, assistant professor of health and human performance at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. "Also, listening to people who have lost a lot of weight often motivates people to stick with it. They think, 'If they can do it, so can I.'"
  • Celebrate milestones along the way. Experts say setting up a reward system is an excellent strategy to help you stick to a long-term goal. "For every week of diligently working out, buy yourself new workout clothes or treat yourself to a movie," says Acquaviva.

Understanding What Will Motivate You

Seems there really are two kinds of people, at least when it comes to what motivates them to stick to a plan or goal. "Research in adherence motivation tells us that strategies have to fit individuals' orientation and very different perceptions of what equals success," says White, who is professor and dean at Lehigh University College of Education in Bethlehem, Penn. "The field speaks of task and ego orientation, and nearly 45 studies show women to be more task oriented and men to be more ego oriented."

Task and ego orientation are each characterized by three key motivators. The task-oriented person is motivated when:

  • Success and achievement are a function of high levels of effort
  • They see the task as challenging
  • The task is collaborative

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