No More Excuses

Shani Dennis, a 30-year-old attorney in Houston, has two revolving New Year’s resolutions: to volunteer in her community and to exercise. However, every year, Dennis’ lack of free time, provoked by a busy work schedule, makes her fall short.

“My job as an attorney requires me to have sporadic peak periods where my work almost consumes me,” says Dennis. “I abhor people who commit to volunteer and fail to show up. I don’t ever want to be that person.”

A convenient class schedule allows Dennis to stick to her goal of exercising regularly. “I actually do OK with this one, because I can dance almost any day during the week, so the classes don’t normally interfere with my otherwise tight work and travel schedule. Plus, it doesn’t affect anyone if I don’t show up,” she says.

Dennis’ situation is not uncommon. Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, but few of us truly reach our goals.

“New Year’s resolutions can be a great motivator to shed unwanted weight, quit smoking, or start spending more time with your family,” says George Pratt, a clinical psychologist with Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla in California.

What allows some to be successful while others make resolutions and leave them unfulfilled? H. LaVance Hammonds, inspirational speaker and CEO of Xpressions of the Heart L.L.C., believes it begins with us. “People are masters of excuses when it comes to giving an explanation for not accomplishing their goals,” says Hammonds. “You have to have a laser-beam focus on what you want to accomplish.” If you’re always running late, for example, you have to get up a little earlier so that you can accomplish what needs to get done — and be on time.

Pratt believes that most individuals take the wrong approach to their New Year’s resolutions. “People take the ‘cold turkey’ approach to kicking a bad habit, which is not the most effective or healthy way. In fact, this can often lead to new, unwanted behaviors that take the place of the old ones,” says Pratt.

To make the most of your New Year’s resolutions, follow these tips:
Overcome the fear of failure. Many fears are self-imposed, therefore, we give them more weight than they deserve. While it means facing your fears head on, “you’ll be able to step boldly into your destiny. You have to proceed without any doubts,” Hammonds says.

Infuse new energy into your life. “Avoid negative thinking that deteriorates your diamond-quality character,” explains Hammonds. “You’ve gotta get mad about making a difference in your personal life. In order for that diamond character — your personality, mind-set, and disposition — to show, you have to discard anything or anyone that holds you back.”

Define your goals — then commit. “People who acknowledge that they need to make a change in their life are more likely to achieve that change than those individuals who think that they may, or may not, have a problem,” says Pratt. One way to define your goals is to write them down, charting progress in a diary or on a calendar. For