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Looking Beyond Your New Year's Resolutions

Strategies to achieve your goals

Woman exercises-new year resolutions and Martina Navratilova

— Peter Cade/Getty Images

It's the time of the year when we begin making vows to live healthier lives during the coming 365 days. New Year's resolutions to start a workout program, shed weight, or kick bad habits are well-meaning goals that, if kept, can radically change your life for the better. So how can you maintain that focus and achieve your goals in the new year and beyond?

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This year, I suggest the following strategies:

Have a strong initial commitment to make a change. All things are possible when you have the desire to change and approach it with a self-loving attitude.

Keep track of your progress throughout the entire year. Weigh yourself regularly, record your exercise progress in a training log, or keep a journal. The more monitoring you do, and the more feedback you get, the more you will achieve.

Take the process of change one day at a time. I think people can handle change better if it's gradual and if we don't have blind spots when it comes to what needs changing. Make small changes at first, and your success with those can lead to long-term healthy habits. 

Dream big, but be realistic. Top athletes do this. They set high goals, they push themselves, they bounce back from defeat, they achieve. Even though you may not aspire to win Wimbledon or break a track and field record, applying the attitude of athletes can help you stay motivated to get in shape and achieve championship levels in every area of your life.

Evaluate your resolutions to make sure they are reasonable: Is each goal still important to you? Eliminate any goal that's not. If you feel overwhelmed by too many goals, keep only the most important ones. Is your target for any goal too high? If so, reduce it to a more achievable level. Smaller steps and shorter time spans will deliver faster results.

Begin to tell yourself something often enough — for example, that you'll eat a more healthful diet, exercise, or get in better shape — and, before long, you'll start believing it. Once you start believing in yourself, your dreams can take shape. The more you believe, the more you achieve.

Practice an accomplishment or performance in your head — athletes call this "mental rehearsal" — repeatedly until you've got it exactly right. The idea of mental rehearsal is to actually create the experience of success in your mind. For example, suppose you're going to a party where you'll be faced with lots of unhealthy food and drinks. Rehearse in your head how you'll control your cravings and resist temptation. Or maybe you're thinking about skipping your workout. Switch mental gears: Picture yourself at the gym, working out and experiencing the positive feelings you get from your workout. When you regularly focus on a successful outcome, you increase its potential to become reality.

Give your dream a chance to come true. For example, I take skating lessons because I want to be the best ice-hockey player I can be. What you eat, what you drink, how you train yourself, what you do with your body and your health — your whole life, really — it's all in your power.

Finally, if you lapse, think about how you can do better next time. Strengthen your plan for success. You do get to try again and can make behavior changes throughout the year, not only at New Year's.

Congratulate yourself on the progress you have made thus far. But if you haven't made much progress, don't beat yourself up over it. Start today!

You may also like: Dr. Oz's plan: 24 hours to a longer life. >>

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