Sticking With Your Dreams
If you're like many Americans, you've already given up on your New Year's resolutions. Research shows that 80 percent of people who pledge in January to change their behavior have lost heart by Valentine's Day.
According to clinical psychologist Dr. Marion Jacobs, author of Take-Charge Living: How to Recast Your Role in Life...One Scene at a Time , part of the problem is that our brains don't believe we're serious about changing until they see some proof.
So whether you have a resolution you haven't kept or a dream you haven't stuck with, consider these tried-and-true ways to give your brain the evidence it needs:
Set small, achievable goals. Say that you've vowed to write a memoir this year but are already finding yourself too overwhelmed to put pen to paper. Why not commit to writing a page a day instead? You'll have 365 by this time next year. The same concept applies to almost any endeavor. Perhaps you've been wanting to go back to school and earn a degree but keep coming up with excuses. How about setting a goal of signing up for a single class or a one-day workshop? If you enjoy it, chances are you'll take another. If you don't, at least you'll have learned something about yourself.
Develop a specific action plan. Think about what steps are necessary to achieve your goal. Then write them down to imprint them on your brain. (This is an important part of the process.) Make each step realistic enough to be non-negotiable. Goals like losing weight require multiple steps; others require just one step performed over and over. If you want to become a braver person, for example, commit to doing one thing a day that scares you.
Anticipate challenges. If you're trying to lose weight and have to attend a party where you know there will be lots of tempting treats, fill your stomach beforehand and limit yourself to one serving of dessert while you're there. Whether you're working toward a real estate license or learning to play the piano, don't beat yourself up if you fail a test or miss a practice. From the get-go, tell yourself that if you fall off the wagon, you'll get right back on. The most successful people in any discipline are not the ones who never fail, but the ones who persevere.
Reward yourself. Remember being a child and getting a gold star when you accomplished a task? Whatever your age, it feels good to have your accomplishments recognized. It's one of the ways we get motivated to keep making effort. So get in the habit of giving yourself not just a pat on the back but some tangible reward every time you meet one of your goals.
And the next time someone tries to convince you that you can't change, say with confidence: “Yes, I can!”
Prill Boyle is the author of Defying Gravity: A Celebration of Late-Blooming Women (Emmis Books, 2004). To read more stories, tips, and anecdotes, go to Prilll's blog at http://defyinggravitynow.blogspot.com.