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Recommendations > Rising Above the Resolution Rut

Now that the Yule log has burned out and your neighbors have taken down their Christmas lights, a new holiday inevitably looms around the corner: New Year's Resolution D-Day. For most people, this annual tradition of self-improvement is the nucleus of more dread than hope. It seems most people fall into one of three categories: a) the New Year's Nihilists, b) the New Year's Neglecters, or c) the New Year's Newbies. The Nihilists read the DayTimer's survey and focus on the fact that 58% of people who resolved to eat healthier, for example, failed. They decide that resolution making of any kind is a time-tested waste of time. The Neglecters, however, rush into the same resolutions made 365 long days ago, with no reflection on if, how, or why they experienced the success or failure they did. Others wait until the clock chimes twelve, and then scribble down one or several of the crowd favorites, “This year I will lose weight, save money, relax more, get organized etc.” The Newbies still have the joy of optimism in them and decide this is the very year for ALL their dreams to come true. They know exactly what they want. They firmly and diligently resolve to lose 45.5 pounds, eat leafy greens for lunch every Wednesday, write their mothers twice a week, and save up ,000 in the bank.

So where does that leave everyone by January's end? Unfortunately, the optimistic Newbies are probably finding they have bitten off far more than they can chew, and have left at least one resolution by the wayside. The Neglecters, never fully committed in the first place, have found the temptation of that pint of Ben and Jerry's far too blissful too ignore. And the Nihilists are in the same cranky place where they started. What are the lessons to be learned here?

Simply, everything you've ever heard about New Year's Resolutions is true. Most magazines, media moguls, and mothers have the same advice this month. There's a reason everyone is saying the same thing. It works! Remember:

1. Be specific. Be simple and clear in your head and heart. Narrow in on one action that you can easily monitor. Replace “Stop wasting money” with “Take money usually spent on cigarettes and put it into a travel account” for example.

2. Be patient. Most studies will tell you it takes twenty-one days to make a habit. No large changes can be made in the blink of an eye. Also, extend this patience to yourself. If you fall off the wagon, be sure you don’t kick yourself too hard. You'll get a lot further by forgiving yourself than by stopping after your first flub.

3. Be realistic. Juggling too many resolutions at once will only frustrate you and hinder your progress. Choose the one or two goals dearest to you and start there. It's OK if you don't shoot for the stars. Deciding to run ten miles every day is noble, but may not fit your lifestyle. Find a more appropriate goal that you can realistically stick to, such as running for thirty minutes five days per week. You can always increase from there.

4. Be social. Many studies have shown that challenges are often easier when done with a friend. If you resolved to read a book a week, run a mile a day or stop eating trans fats, find a friend who will match you. Share your woes – and your rewards.

5. Be balanced. Many resolutions involve a hefty time commitment in tow. Your schedule may require a little shifting.

Finally, don't forget that your resolutions don't have to be grand. Perhaps the most meaningful resolutions are those that create a gentle shift in perspective. We recommend:

1. Keep a gratitude journal. Try to add five things your're lucky to have/be each time you come across it.

2. Enjoy life's simple pleasures. Take the time to smell the flowers, hug the babies, watch the sunsets.

3. Have a good laugh. The physical, mental, and emotional benefits of your sense of humor are endless. Actively seek out the “funny” in your life.

4. Start today.

2008 New Perspectives. Permission to copy this article is granted as long as the authors are notified and the following information is included:

Kathleen Passanisi PT, CSP, CPAE is an internationally recognized transformational speaker, therapeutic humor expert, healthcare professional and author. She has spoken to bajillions of people about life balance, wellness, the power of perception, and the link that exists between humor and health. Kathleen is a member of the National Speakers Association Hall of Fame and the funniest woman in Lake Saint Louis, Missouri (and, quite possibly, the Western Hemisphere.) For more information on Kathleen's presentations, books and products please visit the New Perspectives website at www.kathleenpassanisi.com

Annie Passanisi is the daughter of a motivational speaker (see above) who occasionally co-presents with her mother at women’s events. She is also a Chicago-based actor, singer, freelance writer and editor, 1950s pop culture enthusiast, and swing set champion. For more information, please visit www.TheAnniePassanisi.com.