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Get off the merry-go-round of failed resolutions

Mr. Norris, do you believe in New Year’s resolutions? Any advice for finally getting off the merry-go-round of failed resolutions? – Falling in Twin Falls, Idaho

One might think a week into the new year would be a week too late for an article on New Year’s resolutions, but I believe success depends on “today.” Let me explain.

Despite the fact that many are reluctant to make New Year’s resolutions, most Americans would love to overcome certain pesky habits. The following list, from About.com, features some common ones:

  1. Spend more time with family and friends.
  2. Get fit.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Quit smoking.
  5. Enjoy life more.
  6. Quit drinking.
  7. Get out of debt.
  8. Learn something new.
  9. Help others.
  10. Get organized.

I’m a believer in new beginnings. That is why I’m an advocate of New Year’s resolutions. But I’m not an advocate of seeking change only in one day. In fact, I believe the reason many people fail to carry out resolutions is that they bottle up their plans and passions to improve in that single day.

Putting all your success eggs in one win-or-bust New Year’s basket is a certain recipe for failure. It takes daily resolutions, not a single one, to overcome bad habits.

The potential to fail is always present. But so is the potential to succeed and soar to the next level. And studies show that our successes actually happen more often than we think.

A University of Washington survey conducted several years ago showed that 63 percent of the people questioned were still keeping their No. 1 resolution after two months. That’s great and hope-filled news.

“The keys to making a successful resolution are a person’s confidence that he or she can make the behavior change and the commitment to making that change,” the study said. “Resolutions are a process, not a one-time effort [and they] offer people a chance to create new habits.”

That’s why I support the 12-step approach and philosophy: Label yourself “recovering” (success is a journey, not a destination), and get accountability and support. Then attack each and every day as a new hurdle to jump.

Psychologists have developed many ways to change behaviors. Many of these techniques are used by therapists, counselors and motivators. Helpful strategies include:

So whether you want to exercise more, lose weight, stop smoking, finish an education, cut down on alcohol, make a new spiritual commitment or make new friends, don’t ever quit striving to better yourself each and every day of each and every year.

And when, not if, you hit a hurdle and fall, just get up and keep running. Keep jumping, and I guarantee you that one day you’ll find yourself jumping more hurdles than you’ve hit.

As Benjamin Franklin wisely put it, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors and let each new year find you a better man.”