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McLEOD: Why resolutions fail and how you can make yours stick

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Photo by Corinne Nicholson

Eighty percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by Jan 20.

I’ve got a great track record for keeping my resolutions. In fact, I’ve lost 10 pounds about 15 times.

The problem is it’s the same 10 pounds. I get motivated to take it off, but like many, I struggle to keep it off.

No, this isn’t going to be an article about weight loss. It’s about how you can actually stick with your goals.

Oscar Wilde once wrote, “A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”

The reason so many of us struggle to keep our resolutions is because of the way we think about them.

A resolution is, by definition, something you resolve to do, or in most cases, something you resolve not to do. (Eat, drink, spend, scream, etc.)

But if you resolve to quit smoking or get out of debt (two resolutions consistently on the top 10 list), you don’t allow yourself much room for error. If you succumb to the siren call of nicotine, or a half-off sale, you feel like you failed. Next thing you know you’ve puffed your way through a carton of Marlboros and put three Fendi bags on your VISA.

You’ll have more success in reaching your goals if, instead of making hard and fast resolutions, you take a page from the business playbook and establish some best practices.

Resolutions are rules, and they’re usually about what you don’t want. Like, I’m not going to scream at my kids.

Best practices, on the other hand, are the behaviors and habits you want to cultivate, and you don’t always have to hit 100 percent to be effective. For example, I’m going to be an attentive, calm parent who looks her kids in the eyes and listens when they speak.

If you can do that even 70 percent of the time, it will have a major impact on your life.

Going back to the cigs and the credit cards, if you’re a heavy user of either, the thought of going cold turkey for the rest of your life might give you the cold shakes.

However, if you establish a best practice like, “I’m going chew gum when I want to smoke,” or, “When I start thumbing through catalogs, I’m going to take a bath or call my best friend,” you’ll increase your odds of success.

Short-term slip-ups are just that, slip-ups. You haven’t broken a rule or resolution; you’ve simply forgotten to follow your own best practice. You can get back on the no smoking, no spending, no yelling, eat healthy wagon tomorrow.

There’s a reason Alcoholics Anonymous suggests that members take it one day at a time. It’s easier to think about not drinking today than it is not drinking forever.

When you think about your goals as a best practices, you don’t have to aim for perfection; just do the best you can every day.

For the record, last year instead of resolving to lose 10 pounds, I established a best practice of exercising five times a week.

Did I do it every week? No, but I hit about 80 percent. By the time summer rolled around, it wasn’t a goal anymore; it was a habit.

There’s no point in making resolutions you’re going to abandon.

Establish some smart best practices for yourself and you can get your life moving in the direction you want it to go.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, consultant, and the best-selling author of “The Triangle of Truth.” Sign up for her newsletter at www.TriangleofTruth.com.