New Year’s Resolutions: Can They Really Happen?

Dr. Randall Flanery, Webster Wellness Professionals

For many people the New Year is a time to start anew, make a New Year’s Resolution, and begin living a healthier life. Some of the more popular healthy lifestyle changes are losing weight, exercising more, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol. Quite often, January 1st is the date when the decision is made to change and “Actually do it this time!” Unfortunately, this confuses the commitment to change with actually making the changes, and leaves out many elements necessary to making successful lifestyle changes.

These changes are worthy indeed and also represent some of the biggest challenges of self-regulation. It involves a persistent effort focusing on the long-term goal (health) when all of the immediate consequences of the lifestyle behavior are immediately and strongly pleasurable. In other words, it means trying not to use pleasurable behaviors now because it may cause serious health problems 30 or 40 years in the future. Few of us are very good at this kind of self-regulation.

Lasting change requires far more than a brief conversation with yourself on New Year’s Day while feeling the aftereffects of the very behaviors that you now intend to modify. Motivation for changing behaviors such as overeating or drinking may be high, yet redoubled effort and a new commitment does not accomplish the basic requirements of successful behavioral change; realistic goals, a method of monitoring the behavior change, acquisition of necessary skills, problem-solving how to overcome likely obstacles to long-term change, modifying the physical and social environment to support the desired changes, and marshalling the resources to make the changes happen.

Instead of implementing the new lifestyle on January 2nd, take a few weeks to diligently create a plan by considering what is really going to be involved in the changes. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the specific goal?
  2. Do I have the knowledge, skills, and resources to make it happen?
  3. How long will it take?
  4. What resources will I need to make the changes?
  5. Who can support me with these changes?
  6. How will I know if I am making progress?

Education and information gathering would be an excellent start, especially data about yourself and the behavior you wish to change. Then, use the information to devise a reasonable plan to which you can commit. For professional help with eating and body image changes, visit

Keep checking back with this blog as we discuss the following:

  1. Effective goal setting and self-monitoring
  2. Developing the behavior change plan- skill acquisition, problem-solving obstacles and modifying the physical and social environment
  3. Persist, persist, and persist.