Making New Year’s Resolutions a Reality

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

”Can I Achieve What I’m After?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

Each year, after New Year’s Day comes and goes, my willpower fails and so do my resolutions. How can I make this year’s resolutions to stop procrastinating, organize my finances, and give up coffee, stick? Hopeful

Dr. Gelb Says . . .

Dear Hopeful:

Resolutions at the beginning of the year, such as, “I’ll never drink coffee again” are mostly unproductive. “Never” is a very long time. The thought of never doing something again is more than most of us can handle. Invariably, the habit we want to change overpowers us and we end up cheating to satisfy it (secretly drink coffee). This is why many people give up trying to change. Broken self-promises generate guilt that follows us from one January 1st to the next.

To achieve our goals, we need to differentiate between making resolutions and setting goals. Resolutions are often prompted by an emotional moment, like the excitement of the New Year. It’s more like wishing than planning; it’s impulsive, the thing to do at the moment. With goal setting, we identify the behavior we want to change, commit to making the change, and apply self-discipline as we pursue our goal. A goal supported by a strategy is more likely to be achieved than one based on hope.

If your goal is to give up coffee, for example, break that goal into manageable tasks. Instead of thinking, “I’ll never drink coffee again,” a better approach would be, “If I crave coffee, I’ll resist the urge to drink it. I’ll deal with each craving as it comes up.” Rather than tackling the rest of our lives all at once, we manage one moment at a time.

So, as the year progresses, if you notice a behavior that you want to change, why not begin the change process in April or June? Don’t wait until the New Year, and then impulsively decide to change.

A good way to resolve problem behaviors, be it mismanaged finances or procrastination, is to learn how to break poor habits and establish new thought processes that support positive choices.

”Can I Achieve the Work-Family Balance?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

My wife and I run a small business. Our New Year’s resolution is to better balance work and family life (2 kids). An unceasing workload eats into family time — we never even eat together anymore. There must be a way around this. Suggestions?

Dr. Gelb Says . . .

Dear Suggestions:

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. Even if you are one of the growing numbers of parents for whom weekends include work, make time for your children, be it a family bike-ride on Saturdays, or a picnic every other Sunday. Maintaining family rituals is essential. Ideally, families should spend mealtimes and weekends together. Many working parents arrange their schedules so that certain days are designated as family days. Some parents involve their children in the business, where possible (e.g., filing, copying).

With proper planning, you can prioritize family involvement and set limits on work demands. Quality family life need not be compromised when parents work.

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this weekly column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Extra articles and additional Q & As may occasionally be posted in response to specially requested topics. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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