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4 Tips for Making Resolutions That Stick

Heidi M. Rolf

The New Year is a time when we reflect on where we are and where we want to be. We ponder, we pledge and we set new intentions. While half of us will spell out our resolutions, only 8% of us will be successful, according to Research Brain Statistic Institute. And, more than half of us are making the same resolution we made last year, says professor Madan Pillutla, London Business School.

We’re busy and tired and we forget to take time for ourselves. And, now, we’re less happy as a result, according to one author whose new study shows happiness in the U.S. is on the decline.

"It's a universal desire to experience a happy and successful life, but in today's crazy busy world, both seem more elusive," said author Chuck Bolton. "We are too busy, distracted and living unhealthy lives that we forego our happiness. But it doesn't have to be that way.”

Professor Pillutla says making and keeping a resolution requires examining the barriers to your success. Then, you can set realistic goals. “Don't make resolutions that are very difficult to keep on a day to day basis," she said.

So if one of your resolutions is self-care — and shouldn’t all of us include this? Here are four ways to set yourself up for success.

1. PICK ONE THING AND GET SPECIFIC
We are good at list-making. A busy schedule and limited time are things that all of us struggle with. We add one task after another after another to our “To Dos”.  And, we feel busy, brilliant and beat because of it. Begin your new year right by picking ONE resolution. Narrow your focus to one, achievable goal. The more specific you are, the better you can plan for success.

2. PARTNER UP
As the adage says, “use the buddy system”. Find a friend who has a similar intention. Teaming up is a good way to find and offer support as well as keep one another accountable. Consider the “Ask, don’t tell” approach. Researchers at several universities have found that framing behavioral changes as questions as opposed to telling yourself or someone to do something is more likely to influence us to do it — and we’ll keep doing it. 

"We're seeing the effect last well beyond six months, where you ask someone a question one time and months later, it is still influencing their behavior — even a one-time exposure to the question — the vast majority of literature shows," said co-author Ioannis Kareklas, an assistant professor of marketing at University at Albany's School of Business.

So, start by asking your friend (and have your friend ask you): “Will you take time for yourself this year?”

3. BE KIND TO YOURSELF
If at first you don't succeed, try again. Adding a resolution to your list of tasks is one more thing to do. It may take a few tries to get yourself on track with your new plan. You may have to feel out a new schedule, or consider less important tasks that you can drop from your list. The important thing is: Don't give up. Stick with it. Forgive yourself. Keep trying. Keep your intention strong. You’ll get there.

4. PLAN AHEAD
It’s easy to get bogged down by your schedule and your lists. It’s easy to make excuses: “I don’t have time.” “I have too much to do.” Time for yourself is as important or more important than any one of your to dos. Burn out is easy to come by. A time out is vital to your mental and physical wellbeing. So, whether it’s a monthly massage, a yoga practice or new eating habits, plan for it. Schedule it. Now. If you put it on your calendar and block it out, you’ll plan other things around that time. 

Make yourself a priority. Disconnect from outside demands and reconnect with a strong, healthy and successful resolution.