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New Year’s resolution: Make reasonable resolutions

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Well, it’s that time of year again, when the world tells us that whatever we were doing last year was absolutely wrong and that we must resolve to quit cold turkey and change our ways.

New Year’s resolutions have always seemed somewhat silly to me. I think it’s always a good idea to change something about yourself that you don’t like, but the idea that it’s possible to drop an old habit as soon as the clock strikes midnight seems a little ridiculous. Why can’t we ease into these new changes? Why do we have to change everything all at once? Especially since it seems that the two most popular resolutions involve losing weight or getting in shape, two things that require full-fledged lifestyle overhauls. You really can’t expect yourself to go from chip-munching couch potato to marathon-running superhero overnight. It takes months of training and changing of habits to get to that point — it’s not going to happen as soon as the ball drops (especially when you wake up New Year’s Day with the worst hangover of your life).

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with using the new year as inspiration to start making a positive change in your life, especially one that involves your health. But expecting an overnight change to be easy, or even to stick, is just setting yourself up for failure. Anyone who’s ever tried to quit smoking will tell you that, which is why there’s such a huge market for pills, gums and patches for those trying to quit.

Changing something about yourself that’s as huge as your diet or exercise habits is really about making lots of little changes. Resolutions are so much more likely to stick if they’re broken down into smaller chunks. Instead of resolving to drop 15 pounds by Valentine’s Day, why not instead resolve to monitor your diet more closely, or stop eating in front of the TV, or give up dessert a couple nights a week? Smaller changes like that are easier to stick to, and therefore are more likely to succeed.

And isn’t that the point? You don’t make a resolution because you want to fail. You make a resolution because there’s something that you want to change, to make yourself better. Once you make one small change that you can stick to and that works, you’ll be so much more motivated to make other small changes. Eventually, you can reach your goal. Most people would rather take smaller, more successful steps and get to their goal eventually than make one giant leap and fall flat on their face. So this new year, think about your resolution, and whether it’s really feasible. You’ll probably end up more successful in the long run.

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