How to make your resolutions attainable and sustainable

In just a few days, otherwise reasonable and intelligent people are going to set themselves up for failure. It may be well intended. It may even be vital. It’s still going to fail for a very important reason:

You’ll do it alone. You won’t share your goals with anyone who believes in you.

Wanna increase your chances of success? Write out what your plan is. It’ll take about 5 minutes and it’ll look something like this:

  • I need to lose 35 lbs. I’m going to go to the gym 3 times a week. I’m going to pack healthy lunches for work every day. I’m going to take the stairs at work. I’m going to stop eating sweets and I’m going to use the treadmill I bought last year for something other than hanging laundry.

Ok, now imagine giving your plan to someone you care about.

Right. It looks different now. The plan above actually contains six goals undertaken simultaneously. The more driven among us might argue that it’s one goal with five accompanying objectives. It’s holistic in the sense that it incorporates changes in nutrition, exercise, organization, and life style. It’s still likely to fail.

Anyone in addiction recovery can tell you that undertaking  significant life changes without accountability, support, and encouragement is just this side of masochistic.

Now write the plan you’d give a friend. Maybe it’s a much smaller number than 35? You’d want them to experience success and you’d reason that it’s best to achieve that incrementally. Maybe you’d suggest they break that 35 lbs down to 5 at a time?

Maybe you’d reality check them. Are they really going to shop and prepare and have lunch ready every morning? Maybe if they simply resolved to stop eating fast food they’d be likely to lose weight?

Maybe you’d suggest that one exercise goal is sufficient? I bet you’d recommend doing it with a friend to improve the chances they’ll go. Maybe you’d ask if they enjoy the gym and suggest that maybe yoga is a better fit?

The problem with change is that it requires moving out of our comfort zones which leaves us feeling…uncomfortable and likely to fall back into unhealthy habits that bring us comfort. Change is best achieved by choosing to share our vulnerabilities with others. Who do you allow to challenge you and meaningfully support you?  Who gets to call you out when it seems you’re being less than honest with yourself? Who gets to have hope and faith that you can become a better version of you?

We all want to be better. For far too many of us, our starting point is believing that we are not enough just as we are. If we are willing to treat ourselves as we do those we accept and love; our chances of success will rise exponentially.

I hate it when folks reinvent the wheel. If your goal is weight loss in the coming year, go see my friends at Weight Watchers of Maine. If you’re not sure or can’t afford it, connect with my friend Jackie Conn who writes brilliantly on healthy living.

If your goal is to drink less or to become free of drugs, connect with local AA and NA groups. If your goal is simply to be happier in the New Year, consider how you treat you and use the Golden Rule in reverse. Get some new friends. Go out of your comfort zone and try something new. Just stop seeking a better life alone. The best that ever brought me was loneliness.

Hint: Most folks are just pretending they’re happy and have it together. We all want more and we’re all scared to go get it.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.