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Resolution time: Small victories count

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Well, it's that time of year again. It is resolution time, which I love and loathe. I love this time of year because it provides an opportunity to establish much-needed goals and creates a benchmark against which to measure outcomes. I loathe it because it also signifies a time when we make proclamations that we know good and well we will not keep. Why? Because many of us have not taken the necessary steps to plan on how to accomplish said goal.

For example, we may purchase a gym membership and endeavor to follow the South Beach Diet, but we may not have thought about how and when we are going to make going to the gym a consistent part of our lives or how we are going to adjust our food budget or habits in order to successfully follow said diet. So, many of us set ourselves up for failure instead of putting in the work to ensure that our goals are met.

Speaking of goals, those that we set are often out of reach. Now, I'm not trying to be "Negative Nelly" or, I guess, "Negative Nsenga" for that matter, but I find this to be true. If I meet another person who is going to lose 50 pounds by May, stop smoking in a few weeks, or quit drinking in a matter of minutes, I'll laugh out loud instead of inside. By the way, I quit drinking on a monthly basis, so I am not casting stones. I'm actually laughing and pointing at myself right now, which prompted me to write this piece.

Small victories are often eclipsed by extreme outcomes, which is why we spend so much time making silly declarations. There is a reason why commercials that highlight people who have gotten extreme results from using a product, post the disclaimer "results not typical." It is because the changes that we see are not attainable without taking excessive actions because real change takes time or, as my mother says, "Change is a process."

Now, I'm not suggesting that we should not aim high when establishing goals or making resolutions, but it is important to keep in mind that there is a process to everything and that change can be slow, which can be good. Maybe the goal is not to lose 50 pounds in 5 months but to lose 5 pounds in 2 months -- a small victory, but a victory nonetheless. This goal is completely possible and a goal that one can surpass quite easily within 8 weeks.

Not only can we meet the goal by making minimal changes (eliminating soda and walking 15 minutes per day 3 times a week). If we do more than that (cut down on sweets and walk 30 minutes per day four times a week), then we will probably meet and surpass said goal.

Resolutions are important but it is just as imperative to establish reasonable goals so that positive outcomes are the result. Instead of making ridiculous proclamations, I have endeavored to create resolutions this year that are attainable.

They are as follows:

• I will not take any medications that have side effects that are worse than the condition itself.

• I will decrease and eventually eliminate use of artificial sweeteners because of their "relationship" to chronic diseases, allegedly.

• I will increase my level of physical activity by walking more and watching less television.

That's it. I know, not thrilling or even that challenging, but resolutions nonetheless. Small victories count and I can attain these goals quite easily and with minimal change. I'm not a pill popper by nature. To take a multivitamin everyday is a stretch for me. The more I watch television commercials and see the side effects relative to the condition, I want to make sure that I never risk death or cancer in order to stop a stomach ache.

Although the jury is out on some artificial sweeteners, I have read enough articles to become wary of them -- even my favorite, Splenda. Where there's smoke, there is usually fire, so I'm going to get off of artificial sweeteners over the course of the entire year. Watching women in their '50s who drank Tab and used Sweet'N Low and Equal like it was going out of style, suffer through chronic diseases and weigh more than they ever have in their entire lives is enough to scare me straight. I'm getting off of the sugarless train.

Lastly, as I am aging, I feel like I'm looking better so I should be feeling better too. Increased physical activity does that for me, so I'm going to make sure that I make it happen. I plan to do this by substituting the hour that I spend watching television per day, Family Guy and Madtv respectively, with some type of physical activity. It may be walking, dancing or jogging, but it will involve getting my buns off of the sofa and into the world. I can DVR my shows and literally, keep it moving.

As we set out to make our resolutions, let's resolve to remember that change is a process, goals without plans are recipes for failure, and that small victories can be as exciting and motivational as big ones.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of communications and media studies at Goucher College and editorial director for RushmoreDrive.com.

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