It's that time of year again, tommorow is New Year's Eve, and at midnight many of you will be facing another challenge — how to stick with your newly or, in many cases, recycled New Year's resolutions. How many times have you set the same resolution to lose weight, eat right, exercise more and /or get fit? What is a resolution anyway and why are they so hard to keep?

I looked up resolution in Merriam-Webster online dictionary, and a couple of definitions were apropos to this article. The first is rather obvious “a formal expression of will or intent,” and the second is intriguing “the progression of a chord from dissonance to consonance.” This really hit a chord with me as so many of my new clients come to me because they are living with chronic cognitive dissonance.

What is cognitive dissonance and how does it apply to resolutions and trying to make lifestyle changes? When you experience chronic cognitive dissonance, you are in constant conflict with what you think you want or how you want to be and your current reality. For example, you want to weigh a certain amount or change a certain eating behavior but your thoughts, feelings and actions are not aligned with achieving that “want.”  So if you set a typical New Year's resolution and it's nebulous with no plan, no direction, you set yourself up for internal conflict and you will likely not stick with your resolution for long. A resolution without a road map is like a wish and a wish is a goal without a plan.  You can't wish your way to a healthy weight or greater fitness.

This year try something different. Figure out what you want. Formulate it into a vison that you can see in your mind. Then pick one behavior to adopt that will move you in a direction that brings you closer to achieving your vision and make that your New Year's resolution. For example, if your vision is living in a healthy, fit body, see yourself in your mind's eye how this looks and feels, the rewards you will experience living in this new fit body, what your life will be like, your energy level, etc.  Now choose a behavior that will help you achieve this level of fitness you desire. Maybe it's adding strength training to exercise program because you have been walking regularly, but it doesn't seem to be enough.  Now set your resolution using the SMART Goal formula:

Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented.

Your goal could read something like this: “I will sign up for and attend a strength training class that begins January 14 to learn the priciples of strength training and will buy the necessary equipment to do the exercises at home two days between classes.”

Is it specific? Yes, the class meets once per week, and I set a goal to exercise 2 more times per week.

Is it achievable? Yes, because I scheduled the classes and additional times to exercise in my weekly planner and I pre-paid for it.

Realistic ? Yes, I can set aside the time to make this commitment and this class is designed for beginners and will allow me to progress at a safe, effective manner. All I need is some dumbbells or exercise bands to begin, and I will purchase these inexpensive items before the class starts. 

Time-oriented? Yes, it begins on a set date, so I know when I am starting and have committed the time to go to the classes.

Happy New Year!