Promises, Promises

By Mark Strong

Originally published on Advocate.com January 11 2011 4:00 AM ET

Start small: Why make 10 resolutions when it’s easier to start with one or two? Strong suggests beginning the year with one resolution (perhaps cutting your weekly cigarette intake by one pack), and once that resolution becomes a regular habit, build to the next goal. “I think it’s great to have one resolution in January, then add to it when you’re feeling secure,” he says.

Be SMART: When choosing what resolutions to work on, Strong asks his clients to set their goals using his SMART method: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Reasonable, and Time-Oriented goal making. Therefore, “lose weight” is not a good resolution, but setting a goal of losing five pounds by February 1 is will get you better results.

Stay motivated: A 2009 study at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, shows that a person’s willpower depletes throughout the course of a stressful day.
So if you tend to have strenuous workdays, a trip to the gym might be a better morning task.

Reward yourself: After you kick those five pounds to the curb, do something nice for yourself. Small rewards for reasonably attainable tasks will keep you plugging away, Strong says. And if you have resolutions that take a longer amount of time, Strong says it’s important to reward and treat yourself regularly. “Even if you let yourself have one cheat day every once in a while, it’ll make the overall effort worthwhile,” he says.

Have a plan B: “I always ask people to plan for what they’ll do if they fall off the wagon,” Strong says. “You know what could set you off course, so put together a plan. If you don’t hit the gym for a week, consider hiring a personal trainer.”