Keeping Up On Your Resolutions

Happy fourth day of 2011, everyone!  Here’s hoping that 2011 hasn’t disappointed anyone yet (come on, people, it’s been four days, you have to give it some time), and that everyone is well on their way to meeting all of their resolutions.  I mean, we made our resolutions for a reason, because there was some aspect of our lives or personalities that we thought could use a little improving, and with the new year arriving and all of our friends striving to improve themselves, it was easy to come up with a whole list of things we wanted to improve about ourselves and then commit to carrying them out.

But here we are, less than a week later, and you might already be getting frustrated with the progress (or lack thereof) that you are making.  It’s understandable; trying to make a major change in your life is hard; if all we needed to do was wish to be smarter, healthier, richer, or reach any other goal we chose, nobody would ever suffer again.  (Well, with the possible exception of the self-help industry, but they could just wish themselves higher profit margins, and then we’re back to everyone being happy.)   But back to the real world, where we often struggle to accomplish what we’ve set out to do.  That’s one reason why it’s important to think through your goals, and figure out how best to get there.

Not quite the 'goal' we're talking about, but I admire your enthusiasm.

You also need to stay motivated and focused in order to meet your goals.  And apparently, the best way for you to keep yourself motivated depends on whether you are a male or a female.  According to a study cited by the quirky website Quirkology, men and women find themselves motivated by different tactics, which probably shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Let’s see how we can put these tactics into practice:

Most Motivating for Men:

Goal Setting: We bearers of the Y chromosome tend to work best toward a large goal by breaking it down into smaller pieces.  For example, in my resolutions, I set the goal of going to the gym twice a week, rather than the more nebulous goal of ‘get in shape’.  It’s much easier for me to attach a number to a small frame of time and use that as my goal to match (or beat, if I’m feeling optimistic).  Similarly, breaking down a large goal into more manageable pieces and setting measurable goals to monitor your progress can help you to reach your goal, particularly if you happen to be a man.

Focusing on the Rewards: Another thing that fits well with the male thought process (at least, my thought process; I can’t speak for all men) is focusing on the end result.  You’ll see this a lot when you watch interviews with athletes; focusing on winning the big game (or getting into the big leagues) can drive them to do amounts of training and practice that the average person would find insane.  By keeping an eye on the end result you’re shooting for, you can find it easier to tolerate the short term pain or discomfort associated with doing things like cutting down your eating, cutting back your spending, or getting to the gym more.

So, that’s all well and good for the guys, you say, but what about for the ladies?  Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you.  Quirkology notes a few particularly successful motivational methods for you gals, as well:

Most Motivating for Women:

-Sharing Your Goal with Your Friends and Family: Women are known for their strong social ties, so why not use those ties to your advantage?  Sharing your goals with those close to you will help them to help you help yourself.  (Sorry, I couldn’t resist using the word ‘help’ so much.)  Besides moral support (which can be a huge help to achieving your resolutions in and of itself), you might find that your acquaintances can give you advice on achieving your goal or suggest methods you never considered.  Why go it alone when you can recruit some help?

-Being Encouraged to Be Resilient: This one that seems to stem from having a support network; women in particular are motivated to resume their progress if they are encouraged after a setback.  If you revert back to bad habits, it’s helpful to have someone to encourage you to get back on the horse rather than giving up on riding.  Having a support network around to help you after stumbling on your resolution can make all the difference in the world in succeeding in your resolutions.

Quirkology (I do love being able to type that name, as you might be able to tell) also provides some general tips on keeping your resolutions, from planning ahead (yup, I did do that with mine) to being specific about your goals (I’m a bit worse with this one; some goals are specific, others are pretty vague) to making only one resolution (yeah, I did really, really bad with this part).  Follow these tips (and the ones specific to your gender, or the ones for opposite gender if you think they’ll work for you) and hopefully this time next year, you’ll be able to regale your friends and coworkers with how successful you were with your resolution(s) last year, and how you know you’ll keep it this year.

Good Luck, and Happy New Year!  (And Happy Tenth Day of Christmas, while we’re at it; did you get YOUR ten lords-a-leapin’?)

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