Making Resolutions a Reality

Whether you want to lose weight, quit smoking, get your finances in order or spend more time with your family, Dr. Phil has advice to help make your resolutions stick. Remember, winners do what losers don't want to do. Have passion, take action, and you'll get what you're after.

  • Set a very specific goal.
    Do you want to work out 30 minutes a day four days a week? Resolving to "be happy," for example, is not specific enough. If you want to spend more time with your family, make an appointment every week to spend time together. For example, Sunday night can become "game night." Define exactly what you want in clear terms.

  • Set a goal that has a measurable outcome.
    "Getting in shape" is not quantifiable. Without a goal that is measurable, how will you know when you've made progress or even reached it?

  • Assign a timeline.
    "Someday" is not a day of the week. The difference between a dream and a goal is a timeframe for making it happen. A deadline can also help motivate you and prevent you from procrastinating.

  • Choose a goal you can control.
    You don't control how much you weigh. You can influence it, and you can control the things upon which your weight is based, but you do not control the number on the scale. In identifying your goal, strive for what you can really create — not just what you fantasize about.

  • Program your life with a strategy.
    Willpower is a myth. It's emotionally powered, and emotions are fickle. Wanting to do something — no matter how badly you want it — won't make it happen. You need a plan and you need to change something in your lifestyle. Realistically assess the obstacles and resources involved, and create a strategy for navigating that reality. Your environment, your schedule and your accountability must be programmed in such a way that all three support you. Life is full of temptations and opportunities to fail. Without programming, you will find it much harder to stay the course.

  • Identify small steps.
    Major life changes don't just happen; they happen one step at a time. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Steady progress through well-chosen, realistic, interval steps produces results. Know what those steps are before you set out.

  • Create accountability.
    Without accountability, people are apt to con themselves. If you know precisely what you want — and there are real consequences for not doing the assigned work — you are more likely to continue in your pursuit of your goal. Find someone in your circle of family or friends to whom you can be accountable. Make periodic reports on your progress.
  • Set your environment up to help you succeed.
    If you're trying to quit smoking, for example, the one thing you need to control is your environment. Set your environment up so that it does not support your habit. Don't keep cigarettes in the house. Don't buy them at all, or you're programming yourself for failure. Your lifestyle supports your habit, so you need to change your lifestyle. Yes, there is a physical addiction. But it's also a choice. Don't use the addiction as your permission slip to keep doing it. Remember that you don't break habits: You replace one behavior with a new one.

  • Change your lifestyle.
    If you're trying to get in shape or lose weight, for example, make sure you have a plan and start making a lifestyle change. It is difficult to be overweight without a lifestyle that supports it. Willpower will not make things change. "Gym memberships don't take weight off," says Dr. Phil. "Using them does." Do not feed loneliness with food, he suggests, and be sure to clean up your environment by getting rid of "impulse foods." You can't eat what's not there.