Stick to it

There's no one way to make New Year's resolutions work, but here's a guide that may improve the odds of success

There's no one way to make New Year's resolutions work, but here's a guide that may improve the odds of success

December 28, 2003|by KATE COLEMAN and ANDREA ROWLAND

Many of us usher in the new year with lofty promises to ourselves - resolutions we believe will improve our lives. Some of us have the know-how and tenacity to make those New Year's resolutions stick; some of us don't.

Experts and regular folks with resolution success stories recently shared tips for making common New Year's promises - break bad habits, improve relationships, expand horizons, get healthier, become more involved in the community - last throughout the year.

Learn something new

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Will you be thinking about making resolutions to lose weight or stop smoking?

How about something new - something you've long dreamed about but never did.

Why not expand your horizons in 2004? Learn to play a musical instrument. Travel, and literally expand those horizons.

Learning to play piano wasn't a New Year's resolution for Ray Foltz. It was something the 53-year-old accountant for the City of Hagerstown had always wanted but never had an opportunity to do.


A couple of months ago, Foltz started taking piano lessons with Cinda Perry, who teaches that instrument as well as organ and violin in her Hagers-town studio. To help her students be successful, to keep them motivated, Perry recommends setting aside a regular time to practice.

For Foltz, an early riser, that time is in the morning, before the rest of his household rises.

Although Foltz acknowledged music's mathematical roots, he wanted something totally different from his work or sports he has been involved in. He's loving it.

Hagerstown resident Merle S. Elliott, founding partner in the more than 40-year-old accounting firm of Smith Elliott Kearns & Co. LLC, works as a consultant and is involved in many community and civic organizations.

He started his piano lessons with Perry a little more than a year ago after mentioning to her that learning to play was something he'd never had an opportunity to do. Perry followed up - tenaciously. She contacted him, and he decided to give it a try.

Although finding that recommended practice time is sometimes difficult for Elliott, 73, he squeezes it in when he can.

"It's not the easiest thing in the world," he said, but he enjoys it. "I do it for pleasure."

A side benefit of his playing is a greater appreciation for music - particularly classical music. "I listen for different things."

"You never stop learning," Elliott said.

Art Richards, owner of Richards World Travel in Hagerstown and Martinsburg, W.Va., agreed.

In the travel business for 40 years, Richards has ventured all over the world.

In a city park in China 10 years ago, a young man invited him to play badminton - with a simple bow and the offer of a racket. A crowd gathered to watch the 6-foot-4-inch Richards volley and his young opponents play. No score was kept. No words were exchanged.

It's wonderful that without a common language, we can communicate, Richards said.

Making friends in far-flung parts of the world, getting out and seeing the world, is a worthy endeavor, he said.

Nurture a relationship

James Childerston, a psychologist in practice in Hagerstown, suggested some approaches for making workable, effective resolutions about relationships.

He offers several tips for improving:

  • Be goal-oriented. Have clear, measurable objectives that are practical and feasible. Don't say you're going to spend two hours a day doing something if you know that amount of time is impossible.

  • Be honest and realistic. Don't lie to yourself.

  • Be positive. "Attitude is everything," Childerston said. Research shows that the level of a couple's joy is related to their ability to adjust.

  • Be self-focused but not selfish. Think about what you can do yourself, which changes you can make. Telling your partner how he or she can change is like nagging, Childerston said.

  • Be patient. Understand that mistakes will be made.

  • Be accountable. Share your goals for improvement with someone who will check on your progress.

  • Be persistent. Expect setbacks.

  • Be ready to apologize when necessary. Childerston compared relationships to learning to dance. Toes will be stepped on. Say you're sorry and move on.

  • Be open and nondefensive.

  • Be forgiving. Grudges are toxic to relationships and oneself, Childerston said.

If you've resolved to improve your relationships in the new year, Randy MacDonald, a psychologist in practice in Charles Town, W.Va., said to start by thinking.

Think about why you are entering into a relationship. Think about why you are in it, MacDonald said.

The relationship itself - something larger than two individuals - should be foremost in your mind, he said.

When there's a need for compromise and cooperation, it's important to think about how to "feed the larger construct."

Celebrate the other's willingness to do the best he or she can.

"Get your ego the heck out of the way," MacDonald advised.

Break bad habits

Habits are things you do so frequently that they've become practically automatic.

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