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Resolution Resolve

December 29, 2014
Local experts help you reach your goals.
By Keri Guten Cohen

Each New Year’s Day, most of us follow that time-honored tradition of making — and often breaking — resolutions for the coming year.

What will it be this year? Lose weight? Get healthy and fit? Stop smoking? Save money from every paycheck? Or maybe it’s something more exotic from your personal bucket list. Whatever it is, you’re not alone.

According to a recent study on New Year’s resolutions from the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, about 45 percent of Americans make resolutions. (Losing weight ranks No. 1.) But beware: If you do make resolutions, the study says, you’re 92 percent likely to break them.

How can you ensure you’re not included in that statistic? Some local experts share their ideas for setting realistic goals and keeping them.

The Goal Ladder

“Imagine your primary goal as the top rung on a ladder,” advises Lori Gordon-Michaeli, a psychotherapist/life coach with practices in Southfield and Farmington Hills. “Then create a path to the top by breaking the goal down into small steps, one rung at a time. This promotes success and motivation to climb the ladder to the bigger goal.

“Focus on the steps, one day at a time, because focusing on the smaller goal at hand will get you climbing the ladder to the ultimate goal,” she says. “Many times people falter because they are focused on the final outcome instead of the path, and they either get frustrated and give up or think the goal is unattainable.

“The key sentence is ‘You can do anything you put your mind to. Focus your mind — your intention — on the now and the moment, and the rest will take care of itself,” she says.

“One thing I like to say: “If you do one thing every day for tomorrow — it can be as small as making a list or a phone call — then tomorrow will take care of itself,” she adds.

You And Food
“One of the biggest mistakes clients make is waiting until Jan. 1 to focus on their eating, says Southfield nutritionist Samantha Linden. “If you have a mindset of ‘anything goes’ between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, you might have binged on foods you didn’t even care about. It also makes dialing back that sweet and/or savory tooth in January that much harder.

“On Jan. 1, rather than waking up and giving yourself several lofty annual goals, try to set some smaller weekly goals. For instance, instead of deciding you are going to lose 20 pounds in 2015, give yourself a goal of drinking 64 ounces of water daily for the next week. Focusing on realistic, goal-oriented behavior usually helps lead you to do other healthy behaviors during the day,” she says.

“Achieving these smaller goals allows you to shift your energy in a positive direction and can help you develop a more empowered relationship with food. If you feel good about yourself for getting in your daily water, maybe you will be inspired to get in that workout after work?”

Linden cautions clients to be aware of emotional triggers to eating. Just because the holidays are over, the holiday treats are still out in full force.

“There is no better time than now to start to identify your food triggers,” she says. “Did you grab that piece of candy at work because you didn’t eat enough at lunch? Did you have a heaping plate of nachos because the playoffs are on and you can’t imagine watching football without them?

“Sometimes just being able to identify and acknowledge your food triggers are enough to overcome them. Strive to pick and choose which cravings are worth the indulgence.”

Financial Goals

“Most people make sure they have enough money to pay their bills each month, but they often forget to write the most important check — to themselves,” says Craig Simmons, a financial adviser in Southfield.

“It’s not how much you make that matters; it’s how much you save. The key is having a plan. Know how much you need to save for retirement and then pay yourself each month. By setting up a monthly transfer from your checking account to your retirement account, you can automate the process.”

It could be as simple as doing it one latte at a time.

“In the Latte Factor by David Bach, you cut out small expenses and use that money to pay yourself,” Simmons says. “For example, by toting your own coffee and snack each morning instead of buying a latte and a muffin, you can save about $5 a day. Over a week, that’s $35. If you earn a hypothetical annual return of 5 percent, your savings can grow fairly quickly. Over one year, you would save $1,842; over 10 years, it would be $23,292.

“Remember, it’s not how much money you make that will determine whether or not you become wealthy — it’s how much you save. Help yourself by taking a disciplined approach to saving. With the new year approaching, put this resolution at the top of your list. Pay yourself first and do it automatically.”

Getting In Shape

Patrick Fishman, a black-belt instructor at Birmingham Martial Arts, works out four to five times a week doing cardio and weights. He recommends being active — period.

“I think people make excuses about why they cannot exercise,” he says. “Work out in some fashion a couple of times a week, whether it is walking to get coffee or going to a gym — do something,” he says. “It will make you feel good about yourself and may also help reduce your stress level.

“The key is doing something you enjoy,” he adds. “The first 90 days are always the hardest, but if you keep reminding yourself that this is important to your quality of life and your health you will persevere. Once you get to this point, you will be amazed at how much better you feel about yourself and physically.”

In keeping with martial arts tradition, he also stresses the importance of being positive and treating others with respect and kindness.

“This will lead to happiness,” he says. NS

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