New Year’s Resolution–Or Not

If you’re planning to lose weight, quit smoking, save money, get fit, or quit drinking this New Year, you’ll be joining the nearly 150 million other Americans who will be attempting to do the same thing. If you’re lucky, you’ll be among the lowly 15 percent of those ambitious resolution-makers who actually follow through on their mission. If not, you still will be overweight, smoking, broke, unhealthy, and drinking your sorrows away.

So, if none of those latter options seem appealing to you, consider two options:

First, simply don’t make a New Year’s resolution. If you don’t have one to keep, you won’t disappoint yourself or others when you fail to accomplish it. Let’s call it “The Quit While You’re Ahead Plan.” While that may seem a bit dreary, and probably isn’t something most motivational speakers would advise, why waste your precious time thinking up a resolution when you just as well could be spending that time eating, smoking, shopping, sleeping, or drinking?

Second, make a resolution you know you’ll have a shot at achieving. And before you proudly start proclaiming your goal to everyone within earshot, think about whether you want the added pressure that surely will come when your friends and family know about your goal. After all, if you don’t succeed with your goal—for whatever reason—and you haven’t told anyone, at least you will be the only one who knows you came up short. Sure, group support may help some, especially those looking to shed a few extra pounds, but if you really need other people to keep you motivated enough to succeed at your own goal, it may not be an accomplishment you’re ready to tackle.

New Year’s resolutions have been ridiculed for years, because they’ve become a sort of April Fools’ in January, a little joke you play on yourself or others to make a fresh start. Before you become the joke at the end of this New Year’s resolution punch line, seriously consider whether the goal you are setting is even attainable. Losing 50 pounds by March: highly unlikely, unless you’re at 800 pounds to begin with. Setting yourself up for failure is never a good thing, and even may leave you in a worse position than when you started, feeling depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at your lack of success.

So, start small and slow. Remember: You more than likely are embarking on a marathon, not a 50-meter dash. Don’t rush into things so quickly at the beginning that you falter midway through, and run out of gas. If you’re looking to lose weight, set a five- or ten-pound goal to start with, and go from there. Once that has been achieved, go for 20 pounds.

Your friends should start to notice a difference, and at that point, you’re allowed to tell them about your New Year’s resolution. Some of them may be shocked or surprised, but all should be overwhelmingly supportive and happy for you, which will make you feel even better about having followed through on your resolution in the first place. As for the friends who seem less than enthused about your success, well, they’re probably just bitter and jealous because they failed to accomplish a New Year’s resolution of their own.

For some, setting a New Year’s goal is a great way to kick off 2009. No better way to boost your self-esteem while at the same time improving your health or overall well-being than by achieving a goal you set for yourself. But remember: Tread lightly at first. After all, you do have an entire year before New Year’s Resolution Version 2010 rolls around.

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