Promises you can keep ILLUSTRATION: Tim Furey

Promises you can keep

Visualize what life will be like when your goals are finally met

By Patti Carmalt-Vener 12/29/2011

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­­Dear Patti,
My twin and I are 16 and our older sister is 18. I’m not trying to be hard on myself, but they’re both more attractive and social than I am. All of us — including our parents — always talk about making resolutions every New Year, but by March none of us are doing them anymore. This year, in spite of what my sisters do — they don’t need resolutions as much as I do — I want to keep to my commitment and make my bad habits disappear for a whole year. Any tips you have about how to keep going and not get too discouraged? It’s especially hard when I try and don’t get positive results. ~Erin

Dear Erin,
You’re not alone in the vexations of making and breaking New Year’s resolutions. According to a General Nutrition Center poll, 88 percent of Americans embrace the tradition of promising themselves major changes — especially insofar as their diets, finances and personalities — and yet seem unable to sustain that momentum for more than the first two months of the year. While time, difficulty and distractions factor heavily in the abandonment of resolutions, some of the problem can also be traced to not having a clear vision of one’s goals to begin with. 
 
Start by making a list of all the changes you want to accomplish in the next 12 months. The sky’s the limit! This is a chance to go through a thoughtful self-analysis and determine what’s important to you. Go over your resolutions carefully and narrow the list down to five. From these five, pick the one that’s most connected to your soul and which will support you to feel hopeful, emotional, excited, renewed and positive. This is the resolution that a year from now will make you the happiest for having stuck with it.
 
Write a statement of intent about your resolution that is specific, realistic and contains measurable goals. Try to write it in a way that contains actionable steps you’ll be able to consistently follow through on. While it seems counter-intuitive, lower your expectations to a sensible level rather than expecting overnight miracles. An example might be: “I will smile at someone at least once a day, start a conversation with a new person once a week, and go to a social event at least once a month,” rather than “I will smile, talk to new people and go to parties at every opportunity, just like my sisters.” 
 
Resolution statements tend to come with a “should” or a “must.” You will more likely be successful, however, if you make it a “want to” intention rather than a “have to” chore.  Keep your written action plan with you at all times and practice every day, one day at a time. Remember that something big and important usually takes take a while to accomplish. With the passage of each week, try to lovingly look at what went wrong and — with new clarity — reset your intentions for the coming week. 
 
Create a goal-friendly environment and circumstances that cultivate them. Remember to celebrate your successes and reward yourself for your perseverance. Keep visualizing what your life will be like when your goal is finally reached. Obsessing over failures or occasional slips won’t help you to get back to the drawing board and start over each day with a commitment to do the best you can. 
 
Seek inspiration in the words of the following luminaries:

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.” — Benjamin Franklin

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.” — Albert Einstein

“You were born with potential. You were born with goodness and trust. You were born with greatness. You were born with wings. You were not meant for crawling, so don’t. You have wings; learn to use them and fly.” — Rumi

“Never, ever give up.” — Sir Winston Churchill

By working on your goal all year long, you can be one of the few able to say that you really did keep your New Year’s resolution. 
     Happy New Year!

Patti Carmalt-Vener has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has offices in Pasadena, Santa Monica and Canoga Park. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email pcarmalt@aol.com. Visit her Web site: patticarmalt-vener.com.

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