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As a former social worker and founding director of the Orleans Parish Juvenile Drug Court, Charly Borenstein-Regueira helped young people see opportunities for growth and achievement through counseling and substance abuse rehabilitation. She received her life coach certification in 2003 and coaches executives, nonprofit organizations and entrepreneurs through her practice, Crescent City Coach Corporate and Life Coaching Services. Borenstein-Regueira shares advice on how to make positive changes that will endure, even when New Year's resolutions are forgotten.

Q: What's the key to making a New Year's resolution that sticks?

A: It's important to choose a goal that matters to us personally and fits well within the bigger scope of our lives. So choose a resolution that's really important to you. Often, someone will come tell me they want to do something like apply to [medical] school in part because that's something their parents or the culture might look up to, but they haven't had the opportunity to decide whether being a healer is what they want to do. So getting clear about whether something is of value to you is an important place to begin. There's some soul searching that needs to go on in the beginning as to whether that goal is meaningful and achievable for that particular person.

Q: How can people filter out external influences to decide whether a resolution is right for them?

A: Depending on your philosophy and background, meditation and prayer can be a way to ground yourself to that wise self within and filter out the external static. It's really challenging to meet a goal if it doesn't make your heart sing. Begin by asking, "What one thing, if it was different in my life, would have the biggest positive impact for me?" Brainstorm and think outside the box — whether it is to be healthy and joyful or have more peace of mind, what is our heart's desire? What do we long for more of in our lives? That's the kind of thing we can stand behind.

Q: What's the main reason people don't meet their goals?

A: When people are really pushed to explore how important (the goal) is to them, often the answer is something like, "Not that important. I just think I need to make $150,000 because I'm 35. But in terms of what I feel passionate about, it's not necessarily making more money." It's a process of filtering out external influences and getting to the heart of what's inspiring to each individual. Really examine, "Why do I want this? How would it change my life for the better?"

Q: Once you know what resolution to set, how can you accomplish it?

A: We need more than wishful thinking and willpower. We need proper tools for personal change. We are more effective at reaching goals if we state them in the positive and present tense: Rather than saying, "I don't want to eat so much," say, "I'm eating healthy food and exercising every day." If you focus on what you don't want, it's likely to grow. But if you focus on what you do want more of in your life, you're more likely to get up, go for a walk and move toward what you want.

Q: What tactics can people use that will help them succeed?

A: A concrete timeline creates a sense of urgency and propels us forward. It's also important to be specific about the outcome we're shooting for and the evidence to measure our success. If it's weight loss, we want to be clear about the end goal. People often get started on a goal without thinking about all the resources they need to accomplish it, and they may not have their internal and external resources. Internal resources are skills, knowledge and attitudes that help us succeed. External resources could be hiring a nutritionist for losing weight or getting nicotine gum for quitting smoking.

Q: What can we do when we start to lose our motivation?

A: Two things can be helpful in maintaining our inspiration: Refrain from judging or criticizing ourselves for a lack of progress, and celebrate successes along the way. Build in rewards and motivators for moving closer to our goals.

Q: What about getting support from friends or family?

A: Some of us are good at setting goals in isolation, staying focused and getting from one step to the next. Some respond well to others. It's a good thing to know: Am I someone who works well in teams? Am I inspired by the positive feedback of others? These are good questions to ask ourselves.

Q: How does your background as a social worker influence your work as a life coach?

A: I was drawn to working with families and youth impacted by substance abuse issues because that was part of my personal history. In New Orleans, I saw an incredible need to have alternatives to incarceration, because so many kids were going to jail for drug use and possession, but what they needed was someone saying, "Life can turn around from this point."

Q: What exactly is life coaching and how did you get into it?

A: I worked 60 to 70 hours per week in juvenile court and that didn't work well for me having a healthy, balanced life. Coaching appeared to me in contrast to traditional psychotherapy because it is a model of excellence, looking at each client as an expert in their own lives capable of making positive changes, rather than a model of "there's a wound that needs to be healed." Each of us has the resources to move forward, and coaching is this dynamic model for helping people quickly make significant growth and change toward improving their lives.


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