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1/1 Special Column: Making resolutions stick - this time

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We've all seen it. Better yet, we have more than likely even done it - vowed to see a New Year's resolution through only to see our motivation dissipate in a matter of weeks.

Sure, you can make a resolution any time of the year; however, the turn of each New Year is a traditional time of reflecting on the past 365 days and looking forward to what the upcoming year may bring. Making resolutions is a natural part of this process as it is really quite healthy to take the time to look back, take an honest assessment of our lives, and resolve to make the necessary changes to bring us to our goals.

From weight loss to saving money, the typical resolutions help us start off the New Year with gusto, making big changes with excitement. By the time March rolls around, we can barely make out the reasons behind those resolutions. Sound familiar?

Making this year different in terms of satisfying your resolutions may just be in the "power of the pen." Grab a piece of paper, a pen, and a little quite time, and try these steps in finally making your resolutions stick.

Write Down Your Resolution

This might sound like a simple first step, but just thinking that you are going to do something is not enough. It needs to be tangible so you can see it, over and over again. Take the time to write down your resolution. Is it to lose weight? Is it to save money? Is it to be more patient?

Write it in this format: "I resolve to…"

That one simple word "I" is powerful. Placing yourself in the statement before the action and before the goal makes you the focus of the resolution, rather than the end result. It is only when you accept responsibility for doing what is needed day in and day out to reach your goal will you be accountable to it.

Know Your "Why"

This is where you really start making a change, before you even take an action. Just this step alone can make all the difference in seeing your resolution through this year. Often, we have a goal in mind, but we don't think about the specifics in why it is a goal. Once you have your resolution written, answer the following question:

"Why is this resolution - reaching this goal - important to me?"

Don't underestimate the importance of this question. Your "why" is your personal motivating factor, and what will drive you through the easy and difficult times in reaching your goal. If you cannot identify your "why," then you will more than likely give up when the "going gets tough," as the saying goes.

Rethink Progress

Consider how you plan to measure any change you make from your current status. So often people give up on their resolutions because they do not think they are making any progress because "the weight isn't falling off," or "I'm not saving enough money. I'm still broke." When deciding how to measure progress, you have to rethink what progress is and how you view it. Last year, you may have resolved to lose weight, but after a month you saw only a small change in the scale or none at all - so you gave up because it wasn't "working" because it wasn't "fast enough." Honestly, is the progress toward reaching our goals ever "fast enough"? Those goals that we set that we actually achieve in a short period of time probably were within our reach anyway and we were making progress all along, not even realizing it.

This year, resolve to rethink your idea of progress. Celebrate small changes, such as increased energy levels by eating more healthfully, enhanced quality of life by being able to move more easily through exercise, or an increase in your self-control when you put an item back on the shelf because you determined you really didn't need it.

Remember, any change is progress. Write down how you will measure that incremental progress. Journaling daily is an effective way of reflecting on what actions you took in a given day to reach your goal and how you felt after each action. If your goal is to lose weight, for instance, you might write down that you were successful at eating more vegetables that day. If your resolution is to save money, you might right down how you felt when you decided against an impulse purchase. Journaling is a way of assessing and celebrating your daily progress.

It is still important to establish times and methods for measuring larger progress, so also write down how and when you will assess periods of progress. Every two weeks or even every month you might decide to try on that pair of jeans you hope to fit in. Maybe you plan to compare your monthly bank statements and work toward a certain percentage increase in your savings account.

Know Your Needs

In other words, figure out what you "need" in order to make your resolutions stick. These needs may be objects, time, knowledge, and support. If your goal is to lose weight, you may need access to the right foods, time to prepare that food, the knowledge on what foods are right for you, and someone to teach and motivate you in how to healthfully lose the weight and keep it off.

If your goal is to save money, you may need some sort of ledger, the time to regularly figure out expenses and a budget, the knowledge on ways to save money, and someone to teach you money saving and investment techniques.

Identifying your needs ahead of time allows you to foresee and overcome obstacles that can limit your ability in making the daily, routine actions that are keys in fulfilling your resolutions.

Making resolutions stick is really about making lifestyle changes, and lifestyle changes do not come easily or quickly. We are comfortable with the status quo, with how things are, but remaining there is not going to propel you any closer to your goal. You have to accept the idea of being comfortable with being uncomfortable. In time, the daily actions that were once difficult become easy and part of your new lifestyle. Those smaller, barely noticeable increments of progress accumulate to larger, blatant evidence of progress. So, don't hesitate. Find that paper and that pen, and put them to work in making your resolutions finally stick.

Tracey Carlton is a Fitness Nutrition Specialist and the owner of On-Point Nutrition, which offers both online and face-to-face nutrition coaching to meet your individual goals. You can find On-Point Nutrition on Facebook or at http://www.on-pointnutrition.com.