As seen in the Duluth News Tribune: Focus on these tips to succeed with New Year’s resolutions

dnt-news-years-articleLife Coach’s View: Focus on these tips to succeed with New Year’s resolutions

By Pam Solberg-Tapper on Dec 31, 2016 at 11:00 p.m.

The first day of 2017 is here and, like many Americans, you’re probably considering making New Year’s resolutions. About half the U.S. population makes resolutions each year, according to research by behavior-change expert John Norcross of the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania. The most common resolutions are losing weight, improving personal finances, exercising more and finding a new job.

But only 19 percent of resolution-makers are successful after two years, according to Norcross’ research, published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology. That means 81 percent of those who commit to a New Year’s resolution fail in their attempts to make lasting change.

How can you be more successful with your resolutions in 2017? It’s important to understand there’s much more to setting and attaining goals than the actions you take. You also need to think differently about yourself and your aspirations. In other words, it takes an elevated mindset to accomplish meaningful goals like New Year’s resolutions.

Here are some tools to help do that and be more successful with your resolutions in 2017.

First, begin with the end in mind. Steven Covey’s book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” says, “To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so you better understand where you are now and so the steps you take are always in the right direction. To the extent that you begin with the end in mind often determines whether or not you are able to create a successful enterprise.”

Follow his advice by creating a vivid mental picture of what you consider success. A fuzzy goal leads to fuzzy results. As the adage goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” Start your resolution by giving your brain a clear picture of success, an image on which your brain can then focus its efforts.

Also, add specifics. Losing weight is not an explicit goal. Losing 12 pounds in 90 days is. Even more specific is a goal to, over the next month, lose four pounds by cutting your calorie intake to 1,700 a day and by briskly walking 30 minutes a day.

Second, know your why. Not only do you need to have a clear end in mind, you must understand your motivation to change. A goal must be meaningful for you to stick to it. Ask yourself, “Why is this goal important to me?” Then rate your goal’s level of importance on a scale of one to 10. Compelling goals rate at least an eight.

Next, write down the reasons the goal is important to you. For example, if you want to exercise more, clarify what that means to you, such as living longer, being able to play with your kids, running a marathon or having a higher level of self esteem. Review these reasons daily to maintain your desire to achieve your goal.

Three, less is more. Focus on one specific realistic goal at a time. It takes a lot of energy to overcome ingrained behaviors, so it’s easy to understand why making multiple resolutions at once can be overwhelming and set us up for failure. Once you have been successful at one goal, you can leverage your momentum for additional aspirations. This new energy can propel you forward. As Newton described in his first law of motion, a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

Four, think big picture. Legendary motivational speaker Zig Ziglar once said, “What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.” In other words, there is much more to setting goals than the actions you take. When you set goals and work toward them, you also learn about what makes you disciplined, resilient, self-controlled, focused and strong. These characteristics are transferable to everything you do in life.

Five, don’t give up on yourself. Every failure brings you closer to success when you have the grit to keep going. Have a backup plan if you goof up. Decide in advance how you will avoid beating yourself up. Learn from your mistakes and get back in the game. Refuse to let disappointments diminish your desire to achieve your goals.

Enlist an accountability partner by finding someone who has your best interests at heart and will help you stay focused. Set a check-in at least weekly. Knowing that you have someone to whom you will be accountable will enhance your success. Ask this person to give you a pep talk when you need it and praise when you deserve it to help you stay on track.

If you’re thinking of establishing a New Year’s resolution, try these simple approaches to thinking and acting. They will help keep you focused on what’s important to you — and keep you committed to achieving your goals in 2017.

Pam Solberg-Tapper is an executive coach, professional-development consultant and president of Duluth-based Coach for Success Inc.