Resolution in trouble? Reframing helps achieve goals

Terri Waldman

Terri Waldman

               by Terri Waldman, Director,                                                      TMC Geropsychiatric Center

It’s early into the new year and maybe your resolutions are already on shaky ground.

You wanted to eliminate sugar from your diet, but had that piece of cake.

You wanted to stop fighting with your kids, but then there was that little discussion about helmets and hoverboards.

All is not lost. The key is to reframe that resolution into something achievable.

Reflect. What worked for you in 2015? What were you good at and what are you thankful for? Even if it was a tough year, and you have to stretch, it’s worth the effort. Instead of focusing on an area of weakness, you can be more successful with change if you start from a position of strength and leverage that strength through 2016. Maybe you didn’t lose weight in 2015 – but you didn’t gain much either. That’s cause for gratitude.

Set a vision – not necessarily a resolution. A resolution implies a start and finish. We know, though, that change is not always linear. Along the way to improvement, there are successes, there are setbacks and there are plateaus. Expect those cycles but keep your focus on the overall end goal.

Build incremental change. Maybe you know, based on past resolutions, that it’s hard for you to lose weight. It’s probably not the best approach for you to set a goal of losing 30 pounds by the end of February to fit into a particular outfit. What might be better is to take small steps. Maybe for the first month, your goal is to maintain your weight, but walk once a week with a friend at the park. Maybe the next month, you resolve to walk three times a week and to lose two pounds. Once you start seeing success, it’s easier to stay motivated.

Tell a friend. Sometimes another person can give you a little boost to reach your goals.

A setback is not a defeat. It’s an opportunity to see what didn’t work and why – and how you might recast your goal to be more achievable.

My particular vision for 2016 is to improve my health. One of the ways I’m going to do that is to reduce my sugar intake. I haven’t declared that I’m eliminating sugar. What I have decided to do is to take small steps to make that happen.

In my case, I happen to have a great fondness for Red Vines at the movies. I can eat a whole box while watching the plot unfold over the span of two hours. In 2016, my goal is to skip the box every other movie.

So far, so good. I went Vineless to The Big Short (two thumbs up).

But let’s say that I didn’t make it. Maybe this is a chance to recalibrate: Perhaps no Red Vines is just too restrictive. Maybe I can have half a box of Red Vines at one movie, then save the other half for another movie. It would still fulfill my goal of reducing sugar – but in a way that I can have a better chance of success.

Here’s why it matters. One of four adults in our community will experience a behavioral health problem in their lifetimes. If you set a goal and don’t succeed, it can feed a negative spiral of failure that can just exacerbate any behavioral health issues you may be encountering.

We know change is hard. Set goals based on real life and who you are. People can accomplish amazing things in their lifetimes, but they do it one step at a time.

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