Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Jumpstart Your New Year

I believe that 2004 is going to be different! An incurable optimist, I see things in my life changing for the better. But will they? Or will this year’s resolutions wind up on the trash heap of good intentions like so many before them?

Truth is, the only way any of our lives will improve is if we improve…and stick with the process long enough to make it happen.

Allow me to share with you four key milestones in making lasting habit change. Think about the habits you’d most like to change and assess where you are and what you need to do next.

1. Somebody Do Something!

Are you still in the clueless category? Are blaming others or circumstances or genes or whatever for the condition in which you find yourself? Wow! What a frustrating, powerless position! You don’t have to stay there.

Maybe it’s time to do some self-monitoring and personal reflection. Are there ways you are contributing to the difficulties you are experiencing? When you are experiencing a difficulty with your (anger, overeating, drinking, stress level, whatever), grab a pen and notepad. Write about what happened, what thoughts you had before you “lost it,” your actions, and the aftereffects. After doing this for about a week, go back and read what you have written. Are there patterns? Are there ways that your self talk is adding to your difficulty? What would you like to do more effectively?

Isn’t it time to move from cluelessness to clarity and on to commitment to resolve your problems?

2. I Will Do This!

Genuine commitment only comes after preparation and planning. After all, how can you commit to something if you do not know what it will require of you? The Bible says that before a man builds a house, he should count the cost. (That includes women!) The Weight Watchers people say, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Both are wise concepts.

Your goals, then, should be supported by a realistic plan. Face it, you’re probably not going to change your whole lifestyle. As you think about the “how” of the changes you want to make, do they fit reasonably well into your lifestyle, with “do-able” adjustments?

Next, your goals should be measurable. How will you know if things are better? By your feelings? Research shows that feelings can be fickle. Even when you are taking positive steps, your conditioned feelings and automatic thoughts may whisper to you, “It’s no use. You’ve failed so many times. This won’t be an exception. That’s one reason that it is important to identify measurable, gradual steps. Then you can point to those actions and congratulate yourself as you move forward.

Research shows that one way to increase your chances of success is making your goals public. Share your sincere resolutions with the significant people in your life and ask for their support and encouragement.

Never let the “Ready, fire, aim!” approach sabotage your success. PREPARE to make measurable, public, realistic changes.

3. I Am Doing This!

The action phase of your habit change is exciting. You actually see yourself doing it, and your optimism soars. Until…

  • You get really stressed out;
  • You tell yourself, “Just this once won’t hurt;”
  • You have a fight with your significant other, and you need comfort.

These and dozens of other traps are temptations to lapse into old behaviors. Even if you do slip, remember that a lapse doesn’t have to become a relapse, a continuing pattern. Pick yourself up, examine what happened, make a plan so that you don’t step in that pothole in the future, and get back on program…immediately, not next Monday!

4. It Is Done (or at least on its way!)

Celebrate your victories at every step of the way. Realize that growth does not happen in a perfectly straight line upward; it’s a jagged line. Picture the growth chart of even successful companies, and realize that human progress is no different. If you promptly attend to slips backward, not allowing yourself to get knee-deep in denial, you will gradually be able to solidify the new habit.

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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