Vive La Resolution!

January 2024 View more

Jump-start your 2024 goals with help from our 9 pros

Ann Marie Guenther
“It all starts with getting organized and staying organized, decluttering, and being mindful.”

1. Cut the Clutter and Curb Your Spending

Ann Marie Guenther

That Girl Organizes LLC

The resolution
Is your home overstuffed? Learn to avoid unnecessary purchases and practice responsible spending.

Guenther’s tips
Smart spending reduces waste, promotes a peaceful, clutter-free home, and can help you achieve financial stability.

1. Avoid impulse buying by shopping with a purpose and a list, rather than browsing a store or online.

2. Only buy items on sale if you would pay full price for them.

3. Learn to recognize the situations or emotions that lead to unnecessary spending, whether stress, boredom, peer pressure, or sales promotions. Find alternative ways to cope with these triggers that don’t involve spending.

4. Regularly assess your possessions and declutter your living space.

5. Unsubscribe from marketing lists to minimize your exposure to sales promotions and thus reduce the temptation to buy things you don’t need.

6. Learn to differentiate between quality and quantity—invest in high-quality items that will last longer and fulfill your needs rather than constantly buying cheaper, disposable items.

7. Seek happiness and satisfaction through experiences, relationships, and hobbies instead of material possessions.

Stay on track
Remember that avoiding unnecessary purchases is a gradual process, and it’s OK to slip up from time to time.

Sue Streul

2. See Spot Behave

Sue Streul

Perfect Manners Dog Training, Naperville

The resolution
Embarrassed or frustrated by your dog’s bad habits? Train your best furry friend to be on his or her best behavior.

Streul’s tips
When it comes to training your dog, consistency is the key—it is the most important and helpful ingredient to having your dog master a behavior. Dogs learn by making associations, so if you use simple cues and practice regularly, your dog will learn quickly. In time, the behaviors will really sink in and become automatic.

Decide what behavior you would like to teach your dog, then think of a verbal cue and/or a visual cue to signal that behavior. Physically get your dog to perform the behavior each time you say or perform the cue. When the dog follows through, reward and praise.

Stay on track
Teach only one or two cues at a time, to allow your dog to get reliable with each. Keep it fun and work for short periods, multiple times a day. End a session on a successful note if possible, so you both are enjoying it. The progress will build quickly and encourage more training. Spending this training time creates a bond that enriches all the years with your dog.

Donna Anderson

3. Take a Well-rounded Approach to Wellness

Donna Anderson

Donna’s Home Fitness, Naperville

The resolution
Want to improve your health? Focus on specific habits you’d like to tackle.

Anderson’s tips
Rather than concentrating on one big goal (such as losing weight), consider instead changing some lifestyle habits—such as incorporating more strength training and movement into your day, eating more fruits and vegetables (and less processed food), drinking more water, and making sure you’re getting enough sleep.

Think about why you want to achieve this goal. How will it make you feel? How will your life look different once your health has improved from making these changes? Maybe you’ll find that you have more energy, you feel stronger, you’re able to reduce some medication, or you’re able to run around with the kids at the park.

Stay on track
Make a list of these changes and your “WHYs,” then hang this list somewhere you can see it every day. Also, give yourself a reward for sticking to your healthy habits for a certain amount of time—treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure or a new piece of clothing. Recruiting a friend or family member to join you is another good way to stick with it and keep each other accountable.

Phillip Cozzi
“Be mindful of the benefits of a good night’s sleep and try to stick to your strategies.”

4. Know the ABCs of Healthy Z’s

Phillip Cozzi

Edward-Elmhurst Health Sleep Center, Naperville

The resolution
Having a hard time functioning during the day? Improve your sleep quantity—and quality.

Cozzi’s tips
We spend a third of our lives sleeping, and it is key to our overall health, performance, and quality of life. Poor sleep quality or quantity has significant implications with respect to heart and brain function, as well as cancer risk. Sleep is also a factor in major societal risks, particularly with respect to vehicular and occupational accidents.

1. Avoid caffeine after noon. Avoid eating and drinking two to three hours prior to sleep.

2. Allow one to two hours to wind down before going to bed, without work or computer time.

3. Keep all electronics out of the bedroom, including cellphones and TV. Maintain a sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet.

4. Protect your sleep time: Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you’re waking up tired, try extending your sleep time by an hour or so.

5. Keep a regular wake-up time every day. Get bright sunlight for at least 20 minutes every morning to reset your biological rhythm.

Stay on track
Be intentional about your sleep health. Most people don’t think about their sleep until they become exhausted—they go to bed so that they can still function at the bare minimum the next day. It would be better to be mindful of the benefits of a good night’s sleep and try to stick to your strategies.

Jim Claussen
“Concentrate on consistency over perfection.”

5. Mind the Mind

Jim Claussen

The Health Doctors, Warrenville

The resolution
Stressed and running ragged? Prioritize your mental well-being.

Claussen’s tips
Many people find themselves overloaded with activities and tasks every day. This abundance of small stressors adds up to huge ones that ultimately affects one’s mental capacities.

Practicing mindfulness can improve not only our own mental health but also our children’s, leading to improved overall health, enhanced resilience, better relationships, increased productivity, greater creativity, and a better overall quality of life for you and your family. Mental well-being also has been linked to positive physical health outcomes.

1. Engage in self-reflection. Take time-outs to reflect on your current mental state—consider the stressors, triggers, and aspects of life that contribute or detract from your mental well-being.

2. Set realistic goals that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time related. Break larger goals into smaller ones and set sensible objectives toward achieving these goals.

3. Establish healthy habits. Prioritize self-care such as regular walks, sufficient sleep, and a balanced diet. Incorporate activities that bring joy, excitement, and relaxation into your routine, like reading, spending time in nature, and engaging in hobbies.

4. Set boundaries by learning to say “no” when necessary to avoid overcommitting, and create clear distinctions between personal, work, and life commitments.

5. Don’t hesitate to seek support from mental health professionals.

Stay on track
Prioritizing mental well-being requires commitment, self-awareness, and practical strategies. It requires work to be successful—there are no shortcuts or easy answers. You must take control of you—period. Happiness is something you can choose every morning to start your day, even in the worst conditions. Start by setting clear objectives, creating routines, using reminders, tracking your progress with an accountability partner, being adaptable, learning from your setbacks, and remembering to celebrate the small things. Concentrate on consistency over perfection—this leads to more sustainable habits and sets you up for success.

Gus Gotsis

6. Enjoy the Rhythm of Life

Gus Gotsis

Apollo Music Inc., Aurora

The resolution
Need a little more music and culture in your life? Learn to play an instrument, enroll in an art class, or just get out more.

Gotsis’s tips
Experiencing any form of creative art is an essential, integral part of our overall well-being and doing so also helps fuel our sense of community. Take advantage of the cultural and artistic environment right here in the western suburbs—there are all kinds of visual and performing arts across a multitude of genres and styles, from theater and concerts to art and dance. (Plus, this vibrant, robust fine-arts scene tends to be reasonably priced or even free.)

With so many streaming services and other content coming directly into our homes these days, people are increasingly becoming accustomed to not going out and experiencing other forms of entertainment.

Start by getting into the weekly habit of checking event and venue calendars to see what’s available. Look for activities you think you might enjoy even if you’ve never experienced them before. Maybe a symphony, maybe a play, maybe an art showing, maybe a festival? Try to go with a friend or your significant other and set a goal of once a month or once every other month. Soon you might be regularly attending artistic events you never would have imagined yourself enjoying.

Stay on track
Going to cultural events could be a real paradigm shift for some. While a person might say “that they’re just not into that kind of thing,” you have to get out of your comfort zone. Get onto the mailing lists of some local venues. Libraries, chambers of commerce, schools, churches, theaters, choirs, community bands, and orchestras are also great places to start looking for low- or no-cost artistic events.

Deepa Deshmukh
“Plan it just like you would plan an event or a vacation or a party.”

7. Prioritize Process Over Poundage

Deepa Deshmukh

DuPage Dietitians, Naperville

The resolution
Need to shed some weight? The secret to transforming your health, losing weight, or reversing diabetes is a slow and steady process rather than a fad diet.

Deshmukh’s tips
Instead of having a number-based weight-loss goal, think more about the process of how you’re going to get to your goal weight. Plan it just like you would plan an event or a vacation or a party—where, when, how long, and what resources are required (including who is going to help you along the way or accompany you on the journey). Figuring out the process in advance will help fight off feelings of frustration and keep you focused on the ultimate goal of why you’re doing this.

The initial few days and weeks can be hard, and there will be times you feel like giving up, but if you have a good guide or support system you can start moving in the right direction despite the initial challenges.

Stay on track
If you have the means, find a good trainer who can provide the tools, guidance, and support needed to help you stick to the plan, but most importantly to help you recover from any relapse.

David Della Terza
“Contemplating something from a fresh angle or through a new lens helps you grow.”

8. See Things From a New Perspective

David Della Terza

Naperville Public Library

The resolution
Feeling frustrated with others or stuck in your own mindset? Expand your thinking by looking at issues or beliefs from different perspectives.

Terza’s tips
Contemplating something from a fresh angle or through a new lens helps you grow. It’s easy to get sucked into an “us vs. them” mentality, especially with social media and the 24-hour news cycle, so considering someone else’s viewpoint is an important mindfulness activity.

Be careful to avoid jumping to judgment when looking at something from a new perspective. Keeping an open mind helps you see that there are rarely two people who have absolutely nothing in common at all. You don’t have to fully agree with someone, but starting from a place of commonality gives you the building blocks to develop greater empathy. And sometimes you end up confirming you disagree with something strongly—and that’s fine too.

Stay on track
Of course, the library can be a helpful resource. Take the Naperville Public Library’s Amazing Book Challenge, for example. It encourages reading books in 12 categories—often ones you would’ve never chosen yourself. Sometimes favorite books are ones recommended to you that you would’ve never picked up.

One fitting book recommendation is Misbelief: What Makes Rational People Believe Irrational Things by Dan Ariely, who works to understand how people develop irrational beliefs and fall prey to misinformation. He explains that everyone is influenced by misbelief to some degree and gives practical advice on how to become more aware of how we process information.

Amy Rockett
“The language we use to speak to ourselves matters.”

9. Embrace Gratitude

Amy Rockett

Amy Michelle Coaching, Wheaton

The resolution
Feeling overwhelmed? Feeling negative? Count your blessings and don’t lose sight of what’s truly important.

Rockett’s tips
Work on your mindset by way of gratitude statements and affirmations. Gratitude statements are simple declarations of the things we appreciate in our life, big and small, while affirmations are short statements we can write, say out loud, or say to ourselves to help foster positivity and self-esteem.

The lens through which we choose to view the world and the language we use speak to ourselves matter. You wouldn’t let a jerk live in your house, so why would you let a jerk live in your brain? We all do it from time to time—we beat ourselves up and say we can’t have or don’t deserve the things we want. And when we do it repeatedly, it alters the filter on our brain to seek out more evidence of our shortcomings, and they become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, when we choose to focus on the things we have instead longing for what we don’t have and comparing ourselves to other people, it rewires our mind to start seeing and appreciating more of what we already have.

You can get started with as little as a notebook or an app on your phone. First thing in the morning and/or right before bedtime are the great times to write gratitude statements and affirmations or to recite them out loud—just once per day is enough to start making a difference.

Stay on track
The best way to stay on track is with accountability; knowing someone will hold you to your commitments is a pretty powerful activator. Partner up with a spouse, friend, co-worker, or neighbor.


Photos: Matthew J. Odom. Additional Photos: Jillian Photography (Jim Clausen); Shawna Coronado (Deepa Deshmukh); Erik Lam/iStock (dog)