As we slough off 2010 and greet 2011 with hopeful excitement, it might seem thrilling to set your goals as high as the New Year's Eve ball in Times Square. But creating unrealistic expectations of yourself is no way to kick off the New Year and will only result in a February slump. (There's a reason the gym suddenly becomes less busy just weeks after January 1st.) Often, falling off the resolution wagon has more to do with the type of goals you've set for yourself, rather than your resolve to become a better, happier you. To avoid the following resolution pit-falls and make it the best year yet, opt for smarter, more specific goals, such as those outlined below.
Don't: I will lose weight.
Do: I will work out three times a week and eat a balanced diet.
Half the battle of weight loss is your mindset, and creating a specific fitness plan is the first step in setting yourself up for success. But making weight loss the sole focus attaches a negative spin on this otherwise healthy resolution and might discourage you if you don't see results right away. By opting for a more specific plan of three days per week and a balanced diet, you can set up periodic benchmarks to keep yourself motivated and you'll eventually see pounds drop naturally as you make changes to your diet and exercise routine.
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Don't: I will find a husband/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend.
Do: I will be open to love's possibilities
A list of goals is not the same as a wish list. So be wary of creating resolutions that are not entirely within your control. Instead, resolve to go on more dates, put yourself in situations where you are more likely to meet new people, work on a relationship, or reevaluate what you're looking for in a partner. Focusing on yourself and becoming aware of what you want out of a relationship will help you attract the same in a mate, or at least recognize it when it comes along.
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Don't: I will make more money.
Do: I will be proactive in advancing my career.
There's nothing wrong with dreaming big, but again making resolutions that depend on factors outside of your control is a surefire way to fail. Instead, focus on making goals that will make you more valuable, such as learning a new skill, honing your strengths, or learning how to negotiate. You'll probably see your bank account increase in the process and you'll know exactly what got you there.
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Don't: I will be the best mom, the best daughter, the best high-powered career woman; all while looking effortlessly stylish and preparing Martha Stewart-like meals.
Do: I will strive to make myself happy.
The New Year often brings about greater reflection, but if you find yourself being hyper-critical and adding resolution upon resolution until you have the picture of a "perfect" human, it's definitely time to stop. Perfection rarely brings about happiness so even if you were able to meet your own high expectations you might find yourself still unfulfilled. Instead, approach resolution-making with a Zen-like mindset and aim to simply be happy and embrace life's ups and downs just as they are.
Don't: I will save money.
Do: I will dine out only once a month and put a certain amount into savings.
Like weight loss, the key to successful money management is specificity. Promising to save money without a plan of action is practically the same thing as hoping someone gives you a money tree for Christmas. Instead look at your spending habits and pinpoint where you can be more frugal. For instance, forgoing a daily trip to Starbucks and instead putting that money in a savings account can make you upwards of $1,000 richer by next New Year.
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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.
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