We’re three weeks into the new year and are you already struggling with your New Year’s resolutions? This plays out every year at my gym…before the holidays, everyone jokes about how packed the place will be after the New Year and sure enough, it is to the point that I often have to scramble for equipment for my favorite killer Sunday morning class, Body Pump. And then a month or two later, we’re back to normal. Now don’t get me wrong, I wish all those new members would stick with their exercise. So in that vein, here’s some thoughts to help you stick with your resolutions, no matter what they may be or when you made them.

Bottom line, follow through is about motivation. We all know what we should do, whether it be exercise, eat healthy, be more patient or put the toilet seat down so the cat doesn’t fall in. The last one is for you dad 😉 Think about a behavior that you have already successfully managed to change. I’m guessing that you decided and tried many times to change to no avail prior to your success. Change can be tough. We have to want it. We have to want it more than all the excuses that we can and will think of and more than all the barriers that we will encounter. One of my first questions to new clients is often “why seek help now?” Most often, change is prompted when the behavior becomes a problem in our lives. A heart attack prompts healthier eating. A possible divorce prompts family therapy. The cat falls in the toilet. After all, if it’s not broken, why fix it. Let’s set up  an approach to help you be proactive and succeed.

First, list all the reasons that you want to change whatever it is you want to change. Don’t list the reasons that you “should” change, as want to and should are two different things. A new year does not necessarily make for a good reason. Look deep inside and be honest with yourself.

Second, list all the excuses and barriers that you can think of and then for each one, make a plan of attack. Think you don’t have enough time to cook more at home? Set a day and time for grocery shopping and plan your meals for the week ahead of time. This is a behavioral strategy. Have self-doubts about whether you can stop smoking? Focus on thinking positive rather than bringing yourself down, a cognitive strategy. Have an inspirational quote sent to your email daily. I can be lazy and often quit my exercise about 2/3 through, so I take as many classes as I can and even work with a personal trainer. (Personal plug, I love! Cat and you can find her at Coach Cat.) Whatever it may be, plan for the things that will sabotage your journey of growth.

Third, set up a reward. I’m not beyond bribery. You gotta do what you gotta do. And who hasn’t at times thought about throwing in the towel at work yet that paycheck is a big motivating factor. The point is to set up as many motivations, both internal and external, as possible so that the scale is tipped in favor of motivation versus excuses and barriers. This is particularly important in the beginning, as once we experience success it becomes its own motivator to keep going.

Finally, DO NOT give up when you slip up. Miss a week at the gym? Don’t say “oh well” and never return. Go back to the first three steps. Look at your motivations and what went wrong, tweak your plan and get back to it! After all, try, try and try again.