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Ditch the resolutions

Lifestyle guru says they may do more harm than good

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Have a list of fancy-schmancy New Year's resolutions? You may not want to bother. Chances are high you won't stick to them and they could do you more harm than good.

"Ditch the New Year's resolutions," said Allison Wolf, a Vancouver-based life coach who runs a company called Shift Works Strategic. "They have little staying power because they come out of a period of excess eating, drinking, and spending and offer only a temporary sense of satisfaction that is fleeting."

According to Wolf, launching huge life changes in January is a mistake, because if you fail to achieve your goal, you start the year off on the wrong foot. Wolf recommends initiating big life changes in virtually any month but January.

"New Year's resolutions inevitably focus people's attention on all the things that are wrong in their life and this kind of negativity at the start of a new year can actually be counterproductive, leading people to achieve less," she said.

Wolf said people will often resolve to go on a diet or lose weight in January because they feel guilty about how much they ate and drank over the holidays. But, Wolf said, a weight-loss goal stemming from guilt or a place of negativity is unlikely to succeed. She said people are more likely to lose weight when they make a plan to become a healthier person overall a commitment that takes careful thought and planning.

Wolf also said what starts out as simple self-improvement can spiral out of control.

"One is never enough. Resolutions often snowball into such a large list of things that need to be changed that people don't know where to start when it comes to taking steps to fulfil these resolutions."

Winnipeg psychologist Dr. Ivan Bilash said one of the reasons New Year's resolutions are ineffective is because there is rarely enough motivation behind them to make the significant lifestyle changes required to achieve goals such as weight loss, quitting smoking or budgeting.

Bilash said many people get excited about making resolutions in the short term, but as soon as they skip one workout, they end up abandoning a weight-loss or fitness goal altogether.

"Achieving personal goals such as weight loss can be a lifelong journey for a lot of people, so rather than making a specific resolution such as 'I will lose 20 pounds by May 1, 2013,' people should work toward lifestyle changes such as paying more attention to the kind of food they choose on a regular basis and mindful eating during meals," Bilash said.

But not everyone agrees New Year's resolutions are a lost cause.

Florida-based motivational speaker and bestselling author Steve Siebold thinks New Year's resolutions are a perfectly good way to achieve personal goals.

Siebold said people who want to achieve their resolutions should prepare to experience some discomfort when trying to kick a stubborn habit, aim for 100 per cent compliance and use positive self-talk.

"On average, 77 per cent of what we say to ourselves is negative. Successful people simply don't give in to the negative thoughts -- they say to themselves, 'I am perfectly capable of doing this. I am going to make this happen,' " said Siebold.

And if your resolution happens to be the No. 1 New Year's resolution of 2013 -- to make more money -- Siebold has some specific advice for you.

"Consciousness is contagious. The rich are rich because they think rich and hang around with rich people. So start thinking rich, and start hanging around with rich people."

 

meghan.franklin@freepress.mb.ca

Top 10 New Year's resolutions

 

1. Make more money

2. Lose weight

3. Spend time with family

4. Quit smoking

5. Save money

6. Get out of debt

7. Get an education

8. Go to church

9. Make a budget

10. Volunteer

 

Allison Wolf's not-resolutions

 

Instead of resolving to do any of the above, take some time to reflect on everything you accomplished in 2012 and consider these questions:

 

1. What did you do last year that you enjoyed and would like to do more of in 2013?

2. What are you most grateful for?

3. What are your top priorities?

4. Make a simple "stop list" comprised of a few small things in your life that take up time and you would like to stop doing.

5. Set an adventure goal. This could be anything from taking an art class to taking a trip somewhere.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 31, 2012 A3

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