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No More New Year’s Resolutions, Please

If you wish to reach your goals (who doesn’t?), don’t get seduced into making New Year’s resolutions. Why? Because research says resolutions don’t work. Paradoxically, by not making them, you may be more likely to achieve and maintain your goals.

According to The New Year’s Resolutions That Won’t Fail You by Oliver Burkeman (NEWSWEEK, 12/24/12), “psychological research increasingly suggests that ‘repeating affirmations’ makes people with low self-esteem feel worse; that visualizing your ambitions can make you less motivated to achieve them, [and] that goal setting can backfire.” Positive messages deliver only a “short-lived boost, and when that fades, the most obvious way to revive it is to go back for more.” Kinda like dieting, huh?

Burkeman goes on to talk about why change is difficult, giving a similar explanation to the advice in my book, THE RULES OF “NORMAL” EATING. Even making one change, say, around food, is hard because it involves so many aspects of life—family, friends, work, emotions, impulse control, stress, lifestyle. According to Burkeman, trying to change too much about yourself “would require impossible psychological acrobatics: somehow you’d have to change everything about yourself while simultaneously being the self who is directing the changes.” See why improving eating is such a challenge?

The article also talks about the myth of focusing relentlessly on goals. A better approach is to “set ‘process’ goals,” that is, to attend not to the end but to the means, the how-do-you-get-there rather than the “being there.” And, here’s some advice you’ve heard before: The worst thing you can do is to worry about succeeding or failing, a useless habit of disregulated eaters. Stay in the present and the future takes care of itself.

The article offers wisdom by cognitive therapist David Burns: First, aim not to work so hard. Instead, aim for being mediocre in some areas. The surprising result is that you may well surpass your goal. (To read an article I wrote about the benefits of mediocrity, email me at HYPERLINK "mailto:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..) Second, don’t expect to like every aspect of changing, a major problem for many disregulated eaters who feel they must enjoy the change process to stay with it. Remember, change comes only from discomfort. Rather than expect new behaviors to happen automatically, expect that they might well feel awkward, unfamiliar, and un-you at first. Do them because it’s your desire and duty to take care of yourself. By repeating new behaviors, you’ll reach your goals and the behaviors will then take on a more positive connotation. So, no resolutions, puh-lease!

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