How to make changes over course of new year


Is there something you would like to change? The New Year is a common time for people to set new goals like losing weight, quitting a habit, or getting into better shape. Last January, I decided I wanted to get leaner, so I set a weight and strength goal I wanted to reach by the end of the year.

The U.S. News and World Report says 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions do not stick. Why? The problem is often how we think about the behavior we want to change. If a doctor tells someone to quit smoking because of general health concerns, the individual may believe the doctor and might tell themselves they want to quit, but rarely do people stop smoking for these reasons.

We tend to just tell ourselves we want the change, which is usually not enough. What makes hard change possible? The secret is finding sustained motivation. It is simple if you know how.

We find motivation by linking desired change to one or more of our core values. For example, suppose a smoker’s core values included walking trails in the woods, and they started having trouble breathing when hiking. If they associate being smoke free to their strong passion to have outdoor adventure, they can find motivation to quit smoking. It is also helpful to think of the goal in the positive, rather than the negative. This individual’s goal, then, would not be to quit smoking, but to perform vigorous physical activity with more confidence and joy.

In my weight reduction and strength training goal, I imagined wearing the clothes I wanted to wear, climbing stairs without effort, and feeling more authentic in my work as a healthcare professional.

My plan was to exercise daily and cut enough weekly calories to lose about a pound a week, which was measurable, doable, and sustainable – three keys to goal-setting. Being kind to ourselves when life happens is another. Whenever I found myself straying from my plan, I forgave myself, remembered my core value of health, acknowledged the progress I was making, and got back to my plan.

By deliberately reminding myself every day of my destination, I found the motivation to push forward.

Is there something you want to change? First, name the core value attached to your goal. Using as many senses as you can, imagine how you will feel once you are living your life aligned more closely to that value. What will life be like then? How will it feel? Deliberately take time every day to visualize reaching your goal. Struggles come. Life happens. Each time a setback happens, go back to that visualization.

This past year, life brought me some of the most difficult challenges I have ever experienced, but what kept me on track was thinking about how it will feel to live my life in harmony with my core value of health. Little by little I made progress, and I eventually reached my goal, which feels great.

We are at our best when we live aligned to our core values. If we link desired change to our core values, take our time, and stay kind to ourselves when we experience setbacks, then success will come.

Happy New Year!

Brian D. Rendel is a nationally board certified licensed professional counselor and Training and Prevention Coordinator at Copper Country Mental Health Institute in Houghton, Michigan.