By Lisa Caplan

It’s that time of year again when about half of all Americans make a resolution for the New Year. Unfortunately, most of them will not be successful. Most people throw caution to the wind around the holidays and eat whatever they want, spend a lot of money, etc., and think about the consequences later.

I used to dread going to my exercise classes, yoga, or the gym right after the New Year because it was so crowded with people whose New Year’s resolution is to work out and be healthy. We would always say, “Give it a few weeks and the New Year’s resolution people will stop coming.” But why, by the time February rolls around, do most New Year’s resolutions fail?

Whether you have a goal to eat healthy, exercise, spend less, organize your home, etc., here are some tips to a successful New Year’s resolution:

  1. Give some thought as to why you are making a change and the motivation behind the change. Make a list of the reasons that are motivating you. Whatever the change, understanding why you want to change can help you be successful.
  2. Choose reasonable goals and write them down, and share them with your family and friends. Goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, pertinent, and time-limited. For example, I want to lose five pounds in six weeks to fit into my suits for work. Writing down your goals and sharing them makes you accountable and gives you support from people who care about you and can make success easier.
  3. Succeed by not setting yourself up to fail. If you want to start exercising yet haven’t been exercising at all, setting a goal to exercise five times a week is not likely to be successful. Setting a goal to exercise once or twice a week is much more manageable.
  4. Schedule time on your calendar to accomplish your goal. Everyone is busy, so we have to make the time for what is important to us. Set up a specific plan– set a time and place, and what you plan to do, etc. Think of it like this: If you have court on Monday at 9:00 a.m., you don’t wake up and say, “Ah, I think I’ll go to court tomorrow.” No, you don’t even think about scheduling something else over it. Plan your personal goals the same way and you will succeed.
  5. Work on one change at a time, and give yourself several weeks for the new activity to gain traction and become a habit. Once it becomes a routine part of your life, move on to add to it, or incorporate another change.
  6. The world is full of shades of gray, and I know too many lawyers who think things are “all or nothing”. I have had many lawyers tell me that if they can’t work out for two hours, or complete something, then they won’t do it. Break it down into small pieces. Work out for 20 minutes; tackle part of a project, etc. Working out for 20 minutes can be more effective, and breaking projects down may yield a better product.
  7. Keep track of your progress. This is why we make the goal measurable, so you can see your progress, as well as bumps in the road, and problem-solve on how to move forward. You will see where you started and where you are going.
  8. Be patient and kind to yourself. We all have ups and downs; so keep goals small and give yourself praise. When you hit a bump in the road, it will make it easier to not give up but just move forward in a healthy way.

The Lawyer Assistance Program (LAP) is your resource for free, confidential counseling. For more information, contact LAP Director Jim Quinn at (443) 703-3041 or LAP Counselor Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, at (443) 703-3042, or call toll-free at 1-888-388-5459.

Lisa Caplan, LCSW-C, has over 20 years experience in her field, and extensive experience working with lawyers and judges in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and trauma.