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You say you want a resolution: Tips for sticking to your goals for the new year

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Nothing magically changes when the calendar rolls over to January 1, but for many people the start of a new year lights the flames of motivation.

Gyms are extra full, the vegetable and fruit aisles see increased traffic, lists get made and people get to work making over their lives. However, by the time February comes to a close, most people have abandoned the goals and resolutions they so hopefully made in early January.

Dana Paine

Dana Paine, counselor and executive director of A Path With Heart Professional Counseling and Life Coaching center – which is currently full and not taking any new clients – said most goals and intentions for change burn out after a few weeks. Motivation and willpower, he said, are necessary to get started but they are not enough to keep going.

“Motivation is a mood, and often, a mood lacks a well thought out and realistic basis or plan,” he said. “… Willpower is an exhaustible resource. It doesn’t have staying power. There is a lot of research to support that willpower is actually not very powerful … In fact, after a long day, or a long week, there’s not much willpower left.”

An important key to success, Paine said, is creating a reasonable, nuts and bolts doable plan with micro-goals. Everyone should plan for contingencies, things in everyday life that can thwart and sabotage a goal.

“And, if we don’t plan and prepare for them, they will derail us,” he said. “As in boxing, it’s the punch that we don’t see coming that knocks us out.”

It’s important to also write the goal or vision down, and paste it around the house and then tell people about it. Having a support system increases the chance of following through.

Common resolutions often involve losing weight, happiness and being more financially secure, but lofty, general wishes might not be very helpful when drafting a plan or deciding which goals to pursue. Therapist and life coach Aubrey Boom said it’s important to ask oneself questions before deciding on a direction.

Aubrey Boom

“What is it we’re truly seeking? What’s underneath our external desires? Is it peace? Stability? Safety? How are our goals expressions of these?” she said. “These intrinsic desires are what are useful and needed in our lives and they are what will truly motivate us towards external goals.”

Boom said self-trust is a core of success, which takes time to build. Every task, she said, should start with the question “Who am I?”

“I have seen many goals take on a different look and feel after clients have learned more about themselves, though,” Boom said. “When they’ve gained a better understanding of who they truly are and where they’d really like to go, flow takes over and they accomplish their vision with more ease and grace than they ever expected.”

Boom can be contacted at aubreyboom.com or calling 505-886-2112.

Despite all this, change is still not an easy thing to accomplish. The pain of staying the same has to be greater than the pain of changing, according to Paine.

“As much as we like to be positive, the truth is, if you want to make a change and you are serious about making that change, a painful consequence will move the needle much more than a pleasurable reward,” he said. “Our brains are hard-wired through evolution to notice negative consequences and avoid danger much more than they are wired to notice positive perks and pleasure.”

Over time, Paine said, new habits are established and replace old habits and require less thought and effort. How long it takes a habit to stick is different for every person, but once it does, people can achieve their goals.

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