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Experts say resolutions should be realistic

December 28, 1997

Experts say resolutions should be realistic

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

Hagerstown resident Lori Kelley would like to get more organized in the coming year.

But she hasn't made a New Year's resolution to do that or anything else.

"I usually don't make them," said Kelley, 35. "I think when you make them at the beginning of the year like that, most people don't live up to them."

Instead, Kelley said, she sets goals for herself as she goes along.

Mike Smeltz of Greencastle, Pa., said he usually makes New Year's resolutions as a challenge to himself.

"Just a couple, just to see if I can stick to them," said Smeltz, 42, who said he has about five of them for 1998.

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One, for example, is to get to work a lot earlier.

Usually, he said, he's able to keep his resolutions.

"It's like a day-to-day thing," Smeltz said. "I think they end up being more goals than resolutions."

Making New Year's resolutions can be a very positive thing, mental health professionals say.

But it's important that you approach the process realistically, so you don't set yourself up to fail, they say.

"I think people do well to have goals and to pursue self-growth, whether it's losing weight, picking up a new hobby, reading more books," said Mark Lannon, executive director of The Mental Health Center on East Antietam Street in Hagerstown.

People need to exercise moderation in making New Year's resolutions and attempting to carry them out, Lannon said. The goal should be reasonable, he said.

For example, if you need to lose a lot of weight, you shouldn't set an excessive goal, like 100 pounds, up front, but rather start with a much more accessible goal, like 10 pounds, Lannon said.

Once you reach 10 pounds, you can set another small goal, he said.

"It's a lot easier to keep something if it's reasonable," Lannon said.

Likewise, you shouldn't make any rash moves toward a goal, he said.

If you want to change careers, for example, it's probably not wise to start by quitting your job Jan. 2, Lannon said.

Instead, you should research career interests, see what different positions pay and what skills you'll need to get them, then start working toward one if you decide it's right for you, he said.

Most of all, you need to be honest with yourself and make sure you have both the desire and ability for a change in behavior to keep whatever resolution you set, Lannon said.

Rather than defining a goal, like losing so many pounds, you should think about how you'd like to change your style of living, said Paul O'Flaherty, a psychologist in private practice in Martinsburg, W.Va., and professional counselor with Professional Counseling Associates in Hagerstown.

Take a sensual view of how things would be if you made that change, O'Flaherty said. He suggested thinking in terms of your taste, smell, or hearing when envisioning your life after the proposed change.

If you started eating healthier, for example, you could climb stairs faster and would have more energy, he said.

Think about how your perception of yourself and others' perceptions of you would change, O'Flaherty said.

In choosing what resolutions to make, look at the different facets of yourself, asking who you are physically, emotional, vocationally, and who you would like to be, he said.

In the emotional realm, for example, you might ask yourself how you treat people, O'Flaherty said.

It's important that you don't tie other people's actions into your resolution, he said.

For example, you shouldn't resolve that your relationship with your boyfriend will improve in the next year, O'Flaherty said.

But you could look at how you are in the relationship and what positive changes you could make, he said.

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