Keeping your resolutions

HOUGHTON – Byron Quinn didn’t make a New Year’s resolution this year, but that’s because he’s still working on last year’s goal – completing major renovations on his Hancock home.

For the most part, he’s been making steady progress, though this winter, because of remarkably cold, snowy weather, “some things have been going in reverse,” he said, such as when old water pipes burst underneath his yard.

Otherwise, he said, the biggest challenge can be carrying any one project through to completion when there are so many on his plate.

“I don’t struggle with motivation, but sometimes with focus,” he said.

Life coach Cynthia Drake has a strategy for that, as well as for many of the other roadblocks that can stand between people and accomplishments, be they New Year’s resolutions or goals set any time of the year.

“Start with one small goal and meet it,” she said, “then you’ll learn a process to work on others. People set big goals and want to go straight from here to there, but you need to have a process.”

One trick to staying on track, Drake added, is rewarding yourself for the smaller steps you take toward the larger goal.

“Think of a healthy reward you enjoy,” she said. “It could be some time reading a favorite book or a phone call to your best friend.”

Incentives work, she said, “because people want pleasure in their lives.”

Drake has been trained as a life coach by eMerge Companies Inc., in a program created by Dr. Kemmy Taylor of Superior Family Chiropractic in Chassell, and Taylor’s sister Dr. Kelly Taylor-Bentz, of Boston.

The program is based on automotive metaphors, and helps students to “take the wheel and empower your life,” according to the eMerge web site. It offers both individual and group coaching, as well as training for its expanding network of coaches.

Drake said New Year’s resolutions have both advantages and disadvantages as opportunities for beginning life changes.

“What’s powerful about New Year’s resolutions are that people see them as a ritual, and rituals are powerful,” she said. “They give us a feeling of hope, and sometimes we need that.”

On the other hand, though, New Year’s is an artificial, arbitrary time to begin life changes. Usually, Drake said, the most successful changes take place when a person reaches a crisis point in their life or is otherwise inspired to work toward change.

The trick to merging the New Year’s ritual with a sincere desire for change?

“You have to find a way to ignite your motivations and bring changes to life,” she said.

Observing another person’s success can be a motivator, and support from family members, good friends or a life coach can help.

One tool Drake uses to help motivate clients is vision boards, or windshields in eMerge parlance. Windshields are collages people hoping to make changes create, with visual elements that represent their goals.

She said the visuals bring goals to life, and bring emotion to bear behind the goals.

“When you emotionalize a thought, it will trigger the brain to want to achieve that thought,” she said. “From that, you’ll start to see windows of opportunity. It’s like the law of attraction.”

After motivating yourself toward goals and breaking them down into manageable steps that foster achievement, a third key to achieving resolutions and meeting goals is failure.

Dealing with failure, that is.

Drake said almost everyone slips up on resolutions or becomes discouraged at some point. That’s a time to recognize that you’re not the only one who struggles, and to fall back on your support network of friends, family or a coach.

Most importantly, she said, “don’t listen to back-seat drivers who are going to beat you up even more. Anyone who’s going to bring you down, let go of those people, at least for a while.”

Sometimes, she said, it’s okay to set a goal aside for a while and focus on something else, perhaps a more easily achieved goal that can get you back on track. Sometimes it’s necessary to honestly consider whether a goal is realistic, whether it’s something you actually want or just something someone else wants for you, and whether it’s the right time in your life to work on that goal.

At that point, take some time to reflect, recognize what parts of your life you’re truly unhappy about, and set a new goal to work toward.

Don’t give up too easily though. Achieving any significant goal requires patience, Drake said, something often forgotten in a society focused on instant gratification.

“Other generations set goals and built toward them slowly,” she said. “Anything really worthwhile does take time and energy. Slow it down a little.”

Michelle Johnson of Houghton made a double New Years resolution this year, to be a nice person and a good mother. She’s doing well so far, and offered a homegrown strategy that’s helping her beat the blues and stay upbeat for others.

“Plenty of sunshine and a warm toque,” she said.