How to Keep New Year’s Resolutions

By Catherine M. Fascilla, D.D.S.

By the time this article goes to print, just a few weeks into January, 30% of those reading it will have given up on their New Year’s resolutions. By the end of June that number will increase to 54 percent. A University of Scranton study found that only 8% of people achieve their resolutions, and those in their twenties are almost three times more likely to than those over 50.

Psychologist, Dr. Paul Marciano, a leading expert in behavioral change and author of Carrots and Sticks Don’t Work, offers seven pointers to achieving your goals.

  1. Make your goals specific. Saying that you want to improve your oral health in 2017 is too vague. For instance, do you want to get back to the dentist because it has been several years; or do you want to start flossing because you know that’ll improve the health of your teeth and gums? Perhaps you may increase healthy food consumption, like raw fruits and vegetables as these improve the immune system, help remove plaque from teeth, and freshen one’s breath. In short, Dr. Marciano believes goals should be S.M.A.R.T. that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  2. Measure your progress. “If you can measure it, you can change it”. Comparing where you are to where you started is motivational. If you hit a plateau or start to slip back, you can adjust your efforts.
  3. Be patient. Lasting change takes time and progress is seldom linear. For some, initial efforts may produce rapid gains only to hit resistance later on. For others, initial progress may be painfully slow.
  4. Share your goals with friends and family. Social support is critical. To dramatically increase your odds of success, make yourself accountable to someone with whom you are in frequent contact. It’s easier to break a promise to yourself than it is to a friend.
  5. Schedule it. “Finding time” to do something will not likely happen unless we put it on the calendar!
  6. Something is better than nothing. Avoid an “all or nothing” mindset. For people who are trying to create a daily flossing routine, while once a day is the ideal, achieving once or twice a week is far better than never. Or, if you don’t have a full hour to workout at the gym, do the best you can with twenty minutes.
  7. Get up when you slip up. Legendary coach Vince Lombardi would say, “It isn’t whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up.” Don’t allow a temporary failure to be an excuse to give up. Acknowledge the mistake and recommit towards the goal.

Let’s make 2017 a year of S.M.A.R.T. choices!

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