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Anti-resolutions: Some reject notion of once-a-year goal-setting

Anit-resolution list

New Year's resolutions are as much a tradition as drunken renditions of "Auld Lang Syne."

When the clock strikes midnight each Dec. 31, a new year provides an opportunity for a new start.

But long-term goal setting can create added stress and pressure that eventually backfires.

That's why Gregg Eberhart avoids New Year's resolutions altogether.

When she was younger, the 51-year-old West Fargo woman tried them all: Lose weight, quit smoking, be more patient.

"Then things wouldn't work out that way, and I'd end up so down on myself," she says.

Instead, Eberhart makes a promise to herself to be the best person she can be and make a positive difference in someone's life every day.

"If there was something specific, like smoking, say, I'd say to myself, 'I will try to do my best to cut down or quit.' That's all I could ask of myself, was to try my best. Eventually I did quit," she says.

Goal setting is an important part of Rachel Blumhardt's job as a counselor at The Village Family Service Center in Fargo.

There, she helps patients determine specific, achievable goals, rather than let them get overwhelmed with big, broad statements of intended transformation.

"The most important thing is that they set fairly small, fairly achievable goals starting out," she says.

Blumhardt says clients sometimes get excited about their resolutions but crumble under the pressure once they realize the commitment they require.

To get them past their fear of failure and give them some momentum, she helps them divide their goals into measurable steps they're more likely to complete.

"People will find that they can commit to goals and resolutions a lot more for the long term if they really break them down and simplify them," she says.

If the goal is to exercise more (one of the most common New Year's resolutions), she'll say, "OK, what does that mean? Are you going to go to the gym? How many times a week?"

Eberhart, the West Fargo woman, works daily on her goal to be a positive influence. It might be with a smile, a hello or a compliment, or letting someone go in front of her at a checkout line or during rush-hour traffic.

"It's just common courtesy; something a lot of people either haven't been taught or they've forgotten. So many people are in such a hurry that they aren't even aware of how rude they behave, or how many opportunities to do something nice they overlook. It's so simple. From strangers to family to your spouse; it works," she says.

She tries to lead by example, too. Instead of gossiping negatively about others, she'll say something positive or keep quiet.

"I try to make others see the good in others. If my co-workers hear how I talk to others, maybe they'll remember that and choose to speak kindly also. If others see me hold open a door, or help someone, I hope that they will pass that positive behavior on as well," she says.

Counselor Blumhardt says little gestures like Eberhart's can add up to bigger changes.

"The more often we have small, measurable goals, the much more likely we can be of being successful at those goals, and I think if we're able to evaluate where we're at with our goals on a daily basis rather than ongoing, it's a lot easier to maintain those goals and keep the momentum going," she says.


• Set realistic, achievable goals.

• Be specific - not "work out more," but "I'm going to go to the gym three times a week."

• Establish a deadline for reaching your goal. "I'm going to lose 5 pounds by Memorial Day."

• Break goal into small, action steps.

• Set a start and stop time for each step. "I'm going to clean this corner of the garage from 9 to 11 on Saturday."

• Keep your goal "top of mind" by using visual reminders, such as notes on bathroom mirror or steering wheel.

• Chose one day a week on a calendar to check on your progress.

• Make one resolution at a time, be selective, and don't overwhelm yourself.

• Make yourself "accountable" to someone else by informing that person of your goals.

• Be consistent - repeating a new behavior helps replace an old behavior.

• Use positive self-talk - "I am losing weight" or "I am becoming a saver."

• Modify your goal, if necessary, rather than abandoning it.

- Pamela Knudson, Forum Communications

Readers can reach Forum reporter Meredith Holt at (701) 241-5590