I know what you're thinking: another cheesy, goody-two-shoes article on how I can keep all those goals I've set going into 2010. If you abhor such articles (like 10 ways to de-clutter your bathroom), then keep on reading. I'm like you. Normal.
1. Bribe yourself.
A so-called parenting expert that I read last week claimed that bribing your kid to get him to do something was an example of irresponsible and ineffective parenting. I suspect that the same man sits in his quiet and tidy little office cranking out advice like that while either his wife or nanny is home changing diapers and doling out time-outs. Let's face it. Bribing is one of the most effective tools to get anyone--your kid, your stubborn mother, your golden retriever, or yourself--to do something.
My running coach used this brilliant method to train me to run 18 miles. Before our run, he hid Jolly Ranchers along our route, every two miles, so he'd say to me when I wanted to stop, "In another half-mile, you get a treat! Come, you can do it!" And like a rat spotting a half-eaten hotdog, I'd run to the candy. You want to make sure you stick to your resolution? Bribe yourself along the road there: at the one-forth mark, one-half mark, and three-quarters mark.
2. Team up.
Think of the buddy system from Boy Scouts. Teaming up with someone means that you have to be accountable. You have to report to someone. Which brings down your percentage of cheating by 60 percent, or something like that. Especially if you're a people-pleaser like me. You want to be good, and get an A, so make sure someone is passing out such reviews.
Also, there is power in numbers, which is why the pairing system is used in many different capacities today: in the workplace, to insure quality control and promote better morale; in twelve-step groups to foster support and mentorship; in exercise programs to get your butt outside on a dark, wintry morning when you'd rather enjoy coffee and sweet rolls with your walking partner.
3. Throw in a gimme.
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This is to ensure on December 31 of next year, you will have succeeded at one goal. So make it an easy one: "Throw out my Christmas sweater with a sequenced reindeer," "Pitch my golf-ball socks with two huge holes in the toes," "Give away my Yanni CDs," "Frame the family photo I had taken two summers ago." You see where I'm going with this one? Heck, if you list a bunch of gimmes, then you'll feel even better about yourself come next December.
4. Allow some backtracking.
I think most of us say "to hell with it," around the third week in January because it takes that long for the brain to realize it is going to need a motherload of discipline to keep the resolution, and our goal isn't so newish and cool anymore. Like last May, when I decided to eat according to the "Skinny Bitch" diet. I consumed hummus and celery for three weeks straight, feeling fantastic every time I fastened my loose jeans. Then I got really stick of hummus and celery ... so sick of them that I still can't eat them to this day.
We need to go in to our resolution knowing that we are very likely going to mess up in a few weeks, or maybe days, and that's okay, because for every two steps backwards we make another half-step forward. Technically, then, we can categorize it as "progress." Moreover, if we lose our black and white thinking, and adjust our vision to see more colors-- situations and events in which we can't just eat celery and hummus-- then we'll be able to hang onto to our resolutions until February, and maybe even June!
5. Wear some resolution bling.
Let me explain this one. It has something to do with my obsessive-compulsive self, and being raised by a lot of nuns who held a lot of rosaries and holy water and other faith objects. I need reminders--ideally 234 of them--to refresh me on goals, promises, and prayers I promised myself or recited in the morning with my coffee. And because tattoos are expensive and well, permanent, I go with jewelry, medals, and beads I can hang on to.
So, for example, my resolution this year is to worry less and trust God more, especially financially: to be a little more relaxed, in general, and to try to let the big guy upstairs deal with it before I take it from him, throwing a hissy fit. This is essentially the Serenity Prayer: to accept the things I can't change, and to know the difference between the things that I can't change and the things I can. So I wear a serenity prayer bracelet, each bead symbolizing part of the prayer. My key chain holds a large cross with the serenity prayer engraved on it, and it makes a jingling sound as I drive, to remind me that the pea-brained fellow in front of me who won't let me around him is one thing I can't change.
Therese J. Borchard writes the daily Beliefnet.com blog Beyond Blue. Her memoir “Beyond Blue: Surviving Depression & Anxiety and Making the Most of Bad Genes” is just out, followed by a handsome book of therapy notes called "The Pocket Therapist" in April 2010. Subscribe to Beyond Blue here or visit her at www.ThereseBorchard.com.