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Taking a 'do over' on resolutions

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By David Whitlock

How are those New Year's resolutions working for you? If you've already reneged on them, don't panic. You aren't alone.

According to a survey reported in Forbes magazine, 36 percent have broken their resolutions after one month, 54 percent have failed after 6 months and only 8 percent actually reach their New Year's goals.

Before you shrug your shoulders, mumble that you never were good at finishing anyway and walk away in defeat, try regrouping and starting again. As Coach Vince Lombardi said, "It's not whether you get knocked down; it's whether you get back up."

Just because you failed doesn't mean you should give up. Making and keeping the right resolutions can improve your life.

If you're having a difficult time with those resolutions, first try re-evaluating them. Ask yourself why you vowed to make them. Was it because someone nagged you into it? In that case, your motivation is a negative one, making it more difficult to maintain the commitment.

How important was that resolution to you? Was it something you just kind of, sort of, thought you might like to do? The more reasons you have for attaining a goal, the more likely you will be to achieve it.

Now that you've reassessed your resolutions, try renegotiating. Many times, a goal is simply unrealistic. For instance, if you are used to drinking 10 to 12 cups of coffee a day, completely eliminating caffeine from you diet all at once would be extremely difficult. That's a resolution that's just waiting to be broken. Be careful not to set yourself up for failure.

Accomplishing a goal is a process that requires forethought. Those extra pounds don't automatically melt away simply because you want to lose some weight. Plot a plan. If you want to earn more money, be specific and put it in writing. How much do you want to earn? How long will it take to do it? Goals should be challenging but attainable.

It's also good to have someone you can report to. If you've made a resolution to get organized, for instance, share that with someone you trust and hold yourself accountable. You might set a date for your accountability partner to inspect your work.

If your resolution has to do with giving up a bad habit, try replacing it with a good one. For example, if you think you are spending too much time watching TV, replace it with a better habit, perhaps reading a book or playing a game with your spouse or a friend.

Finally, refocus. Sometimes in our determination to succeed, we punish ourselves when we backslide by repeating the negative image of the failure. This only imbeds the cycle of defeat deeper into our consciousness practically guaranteeing more losses and frustration. Change your focus. Fix your thoughts on the positive. Mentally replay your successes.

When former Major League Baseball pitcher John Smoltz had a miserable 2-11 start in 1991, he received some help from sports psychologist Jack Llewellyn, reports Sue Shellenbarger in the The Wall Street Journal.

Llewellyn had Smoltz watch a two-minute tape of a half-dozen of his perfect pitches. Smoltz said that when he made a bad pitch in a game, "I literally would not step back on the mound until I had pulled up that positive file in my mind." It worked. Smoltz reversed course and posted a 12-2 record for the second half of the season.

Whenever you stumble, push your mental replay button and view a few of your former victories. Then get going again. Remember the Japanese proverb: "Fall seven times and stand up eight."

William Hinson tells of two brothers, ages 7 and 9, who loved to play putt putt. The only problem was that the older brother won every time. One day, after finishing the first nine holes, the 7-year-old told his older brother, "I'm not going to play with you anymore until you agree to give me at least three 'do overs.'"

Instead of giving up on those resolutions, give yourself a "do over." You may not finish with a perfect score, but stay in the game and notch some wins. By the year's end, you'll be a better and more improved you.

And that's what really matters.