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Why your resolutions probably won't last

I’m not really a maker of resolutions. Not because they never seem to work — which they don’t. And not because I’m basically lazy — which I am.

Mostly, I just don’t get it.

Why make a big deal about proclaiming your intention to lose weight or get that degree or quit smoking or become a better pie-maker? If you fail (and you almost certainly will), then everybody knows that (A) you’re a dud, and (B) you’re still overweight, uneducated, a smoker or making lousy pies.Former managing editor of the Times newspapers as well as the Lake Oswego Review, Mikel Kelly is now chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.

Myself, I know — because I seldom have a thought that I don’t express in the newspaper for anyone to see — I would come off as even more of a loser than I already am.

So I don’t make resolutions.

Last week I heard from a resolution expert, though, and I thought I’d share his message.

Todd Stofka, described as a “performance expert” — but more accurately the head honcho of something called Philly Hypnosis Performance — has posted “three reasons why 91 percent of your new year’s resolutions will fail.”

Allow me to save you a bunch of research time by just telling you the three reasons:

1. Too many resolutions — “People create too many resolutions,” says Stofka, adding that “many studies have found that when people get involved with too many things at once, their ability to focus suffers. The conscious part of your mind can only focus effectively on one to nine things at any one time. It’s tempting to go for all 99 goals on your list; however, for the easiest results, choose your top two to four and focus in on those. Once you have some traction and success, you can always add in a new one.”

I need to digress a minute and point to two examples of goal-setting that I consider to be most unusual. A fellow I work with — let’s call him Ralph — makes a to-do list every day that takes up multiple pages of a legal pad. Then, as his day progresses, he scratches off the items one at a time until he’s eliminated all of them.

A second example was planted in my head several years back in one of those self-improvement seminars when the moderator told us that former Los Angeles Lakers coach Pat Riley was fond of listing his three top goals in life — every day. Some times they changed, he said, but he always scribbled them down somewhere, so he was never in danger of forgetting his major goals.

Neither of those rituals held any appeal for me. Now back to Todd Stofka’s three reasons why your resolutions will fail.

2. Unclear goals, creating unrealistic resolutions — “Goals that we like to re-engineer by creating blueprints have to be specific.” he says. “The more specific, the more likely you are to succeed. Your blueprint has to be specific, measurable and actionable. You can’t say I want to feel better or be healthier and expect to succeed. What’s healthier?”

3. Negative motivation — “People don’t arm themselves to deal with doubt or set about using negative guilt or fear as motivation to stop doing something,” Stofka insists. “Trying to create guilt and fear to motivate you does not work, and typically you will burn out. The very design of it causes you to focus on the consequences of failure and poor results. I don’t know many successful people who feel good about themselves when they are inefficient. More guilt typically brings more problems. Have fun succeeding this New Year and just take three ideas of failure and simply do the opposite.”

I don’t know about you, but I picture Wayne Campbell, of “Wayne’s World” fame, nodding his head after all of that, saying, “I think we can all agree that’s some totally amazing, excellent information.”

Todd Stofka, for those who were wondering, is the inventer of Philly Hypnosis, which I’m pretty sure involves waving a cheesesteak sandwich before you and dreamily incanting, “You are getting verrrrry sleepy, and you want to lose weight — or quit smoking — or make better pies.”

OK, not really. But Mr. Stofka specialized in working with athletes, corporate training and providing solutions to medical problems. For more on him and his efforts, visit toddstofka.com.

Meanwhile, keep those resolutions under control. Remember, not too many, make them clear, and no negative thinking. Now get out there and become better humans.

Former managing editor of the Times newspapers as well as the Lake Oswego Review, Kelly is now chief of the central design desk for Community Newspapers and the Portland Tribune, and he contributes a regular column.




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