Don’t Make a Resolution — Make a Plan

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So, it’s a new year. A new you. You are going to work out more. You will eat healthier. You are going to take time for yourself. You are going to set goals, and you are going to stop doing all of these things within the next two weeks….

Sorry to be a downer, but, in some cases, New Year’s resolutions can be a waste of time. How many people do you know who actually follow through on them? Probably not that many.

What you need is not a resolution — what you need is a plan.

We make a mistake in telling ourselves that just having an idea for something will be enough. What we really need is a plan. And, plans require a few things:

1. The goal. This is where most resolutions start and end. There is just a goal without any idea how to actually get there. So, time to set the goal, and then follow along below.

2. The plan. You have to start small. You will not go from couch potato to distance runner in three weeks. You can start with a run down the block, getting a running coach, joining a running group, or a website, like

3. The schedule. You have to put time in your schedule to actually do your plan. With no time in your schedule, then no plan will be adopted. And, some plane require no extra time in your schedule at all — just behaving different. For example, I am doing the fasting diet . I love it, it is easy to do, I have lost 10 pounds already, and I barely made any changes at all to my life other than picking two days a week to do the fasting (which is really 600 or less calories). 

4. The support. If you are not the type of person that is good at following something on your own, then you can get someone that you can report in to about your progress. This requires that you be honest and that you be open to honest feedback as well. Your check-in person ought to hold you accountable for what you do or do not do.

5. Your reward. Your reward is not to slack off. I know so many people who are “on a diet” and then have a candy bar because they were so good all day long. This is not being on a diet, this is shuffling around when you are eating too many calories. Your reward is to it pat yourself on the back and be proud of the work that you have done. That is all that you need.

So, go ahead and set a goal, make a plan, set a schedule, get support, and reward yourself. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and wise in the New Year. Make it a great 2014.

Dr. Patrick McGrath is the director of the Alexian Brothers Center for Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders and the co-director of the School Anxiety and School Refusal Program at Alexian Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Disclaimer: Be sure to consult a physician before altering your diet, fitness level or anything else that may affect your health.

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