With the New Year upon us, many people’s thoughts turn to New Year’s Resolutions. Almost half of all Americans make resolutions every year; however, most fail to accomplish what they resolved to do (Journal of Clinical Psychology, 2012). Whether you are looking to lose weight/get healthy (which is typically the most popular resolution), organize your home, save money, or any other thing that you would like to change in your life, there are ways to improve your chances of success.
When embarking upon change, it is important to be clear and specific about what you want to change and what steps you may take to create this change. A task centered model approach to your resolutions, where you take a larger problem and break it down into manageable tasks, allows for quicker feedback and an easier sense of accomplishment, which may help with success (Reid & Fortune, 2002; Epstein & Brown, 2002). To take this approach, first define what your goals are and where you are currently. For example, if you want to lose weight, what is your current weight, what is your goal weight, and what is a reasonable amount of weight to lose every week? Furthermore, define how you will track your progress. Obviously with the aforementioned weight loss example, you could weigh yourself; however, there may be other outcomes that can also keep you motivated to continue. For example, you could also measure yourself, pay attention to the tightness of your clothes, take before and after pictures, etc. It is acceptable to have more than one measure of success, especially if it helps keep you motivated. As you are establishing your goals, make sure they are clear, measurable, and written down. Still following our weight loss example, a clear, measurable goal may look like this: By June 1, 2014, I will be 20 pounds lighter. This will be accomplished by losing approximately one pound per week.
Once your goals are clearly established in broad terms, think about what it will take to accomplish those goals. Ideally you want to come up with small tasks that can be accomplished quickly and build upon those to achieve the greater goal. To do this, you may want to brainstorm how the goal can be accomplished and what tasks can get you to that point. Then clearly define those tasks and how you will work toward them. For example, with weight loss, most people know that you need to eat healthy foods and exercise, but what exactly does that mean? First go back to where you looked at your current state. Are you eating breakfast, are you drinking water, are you eating fruits/vegetables, are you eating too many sweets/fats, are you completely sedentary or do you get a little exercise, etc.? Pick only one or two items to begin with and work with those. Let’s say you want to eat more vegetables and get more exercise. Let’s say that at the beginning (baseline) you are only eating about one vegetable four days a week and that you do not exercise at all. Graduated, manageable tasks pursued may look like this:
Eating Goals: Eat at least one vegetable every day this week.
Exercise Goals: Walk at least a total of 30 minutes this week.
Eating Goals: Eat two vegetables daily for at least two out of seven days and at least one vegetable on the remaining days.
Exercise Goals: Walk at least a total of 60 minutes this week.
Continue adding achievable amounts to these tasks as necessaryand when you have clearly established habits with these tasks (3-5 weeks), pick another task or two to work on. Remember to track progress, preferably written/noted in a place where you can look at it often and see your progress. Share your goals with others if you need additional accountability and encouragement. Lastly, reward yourself. Set up rewards at the beginning so that you have something more to look forward to than the final goal. Make the rewards pertinent to you and your enjoyment. For example, in week one, you ate vegetables every day and walked for 45 minutes, maybe your reward would be a pedicure. As with the tasks and goals, your rewards need to be something that you want to do, can do, and are specific to you. If you need more help targeting areas of change in your life and how to accomplish that change, a few visits with a trained counselor may help you identify your problems, set your goals, and achieve success and will also lend a bit of accountability. Wishing you success with all of your goals for 2014!
Epstein, L. & Brown, L. B. (2002). Brief treatment and a new look at the task-centered approach. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Reid, W. J., & Fortune, A. E. (2002). The task-centered model.In A. R. Roberts & G. J. Greene (Eds.), Social workers’ desk reference (pp. 101-104). Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press.