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New Year's Resolutions - How To Make Vows Last!

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

We've all done it at least once in our lives. We've all made that decision to change something important about ourselves -- our physical appearance, our way of relating to people, our activity level, the way we approach our work. We get a flash in our brain of the way we could look or the life we could lead or the time we will have, bite the bullet and set a goal of losing 20 pounds or saying no or exercising more.

Most such efforts, however well intentioned, don't last. Gradually (or maybe not so gradually) the change you make doesn't survive the first challenge to the smooth deployment of your new routine.

That’s what could be called the New Year’s resolution approach to goal-setting. You get a lightning vision of how things could be different, you decide on a goal based on what you want to get away from and invoke brute strength or willpower to act on it. Only a couple of weeks later the effort has petered out and you're disappointed in yourself. Again.

No matter what time of year you try this approach to change, it usually doesn’t last. But that's not the way it has to be. There is another way. You set the same goal. You make the same changes to your routines. Only they stick, no matter how many hurdles are thrown into your path, no matter how much stress you encounter, no matter how many times you are thrown off track by life's everyday vicissitudes. You pick yourself up and you go back to working on that goal. Sooner or later you get there.

The difference between repeatedly doomed resolutions and sustained change isn't something magical that you lack and everyone else seems to have. No, it's your relationship to the future, says Ti Caine, a hypnotherapist and life coach in Los Angeles.

New Year’s resolution-type of goal-setting usually involves a one-shot connection to the future. To create lasting change, on the other hand, you need to build a complete vision of the future that you want so that you can live with it every day of the present.

"Successful people have an ongoing, passionate connection to their dreams for the future that's more than a passing flash," says Caine. "It's a living part of them every day. They see their future in its wholeness, visualize its extension into all the domains of their life. That allows them to create lots of mental paths to it.

"They don't have a one-night stand with the future. They build a relationship with it. That way it becomes a constant source of hope and motivation."

And that is what keeps them going through challenges and carries them to success. If hope, motivation and success come from you having a detailed vision of the future you want, then it makes sense that the future is something you should invest some mental time in. "After all," says Caine, "you're going to spend the rest of your life there."

In the course of staying in touch with the future, you are making frequent contact with your vision of it. "You live your way into it," says Caine, who has developed a system he calls FutureVisioning that teaches people how to do it.

This, he emphasizes, is exactly opposite of the way change-focused programs typically work.

"For example, most people start diet programs motivated by pain, desperation and a vision of what they don’t want," Caine points out. "Whether they acknowledge it or not, that sets people up to resent the very programs they are joining for help."

Much better to create positive goals that inspires you and sustains motivation. Because how to change is such an important subject and focusing on the future is such a novel approach that bears exploration, Psyched for Success will devote the next six issues to detailing the steps for creating and sustaining whole life success. Subsequent issues will explore all the facets of lasting change.

  • Designing your future -- how to design a future that inspires and motivates you

  • Visualizing your future -- how to tap into the power of visualization for effective change

  • Resolving roadblocks -- how to handle fears both of failing and of succeeding and attempts at self-sabotage as you move forward

  • Reclaiming yourself, forgiving mistakes -- how to forgive yourself for past failures

  • Choosing your action plan -- how to detail the steps from where you are to where you want to be (this is the point to begin your program for change, and not before)

  • Sustaining success -- how to keep doing the things that work

    Stay tuned. But between now and next issue, spend some time imagining the future you really want. And consider finding a friend who wants to grow with you and make real positive changes in their life, and start talking together about your futures.

    Hara Estroff Marano is Editor-At-Large of Psychology Today magazine and Editor-In-Chief of Psychology Today's Blues Buster, a newsletter about depression. An award-winning writer on human behavior, Haras articles have appeared in publications including the New York Times, Smithsonian, Family Circle and The Ladies Home Journal. She lives in New York City.

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