With the approach of a new year, thoughts of New Year’s resolutions may come to mind. A good number of people make resolutions; few actually follow through on their good intentions, whether that be to get fit, lose weight, get organized, spend more time with family and friends, or save money. After repeating the cycle of making but not keeping resolutions year in and year out, some people give up on the idea of resolutions completely. But it doesn’t have to be that way. This year, why not set a goal that you’re motivated to achieve? And then commit to taking the steps you’ll need take to make your goal a reality. Consider these tips to help you set yourself up for success.

Focus on One Goal

Trying to implement several sweeping changes all at once may only leave you discouraged or overwhelmed. Replacing unhealthy or unhelpful behaviors takes time and effort, so channel your best effort into accomplishing one resolution. Pick one thing you really want to accomplish. Break it down into smaller goals if you need to. For example, if you are among the one third of Americans who don’t have an emergency fund, set up an automatic payment plan so you have a fixed amount of money go into a dedicated savings account each month. After that, figure out where you can trim your expenses so you don’t run out of money before the end of the month. At first, don’t worry too much about the amount you’re saving. Just get into the habit of saving. Then take the steps needed to increase your savings so that you have at least six months worth of living expenses on hand for unexpected or emergency situations.  

Once you’ve arrived at your first New Year’s resolution, you may find that you’re feeling motivated to make another change. Success often breeds success. So plan to leverage what you’ve learned the first time around to help you accomplish other self improvements.   

Create a SMART Goal

Write down your goal, and make sure it is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. So instead of making a goal like “lose weight” state it as “lose 10 pounds by April.” Now you’ve got something you can measure and you’ve set a time by which you think you can accomplish it. Then you need to make small, sustainable changes to your diet and exercise routine in order to lose a pound per week, generally a realistic target for weight loss. Each week you can assess whether you’ve made progress toward your goal, and at the end of 13 weeks you can weigh in to see whether you’ve actually lost the weight you wanted to lose.

Get Support

Share your goal with others. Telling other people what you plan to accomplish helps with accountability. If you can team up with someone else who has a similar goal or find a support group, you’ll have one or more people with whom you can share your struggles and successes. Such a support system is an invaluable resource on your journey to a healthier lifestyle. In fact, empirical research has shown that the reason programs such as Weight Watchers have been so successful is that they include bringing people together who are working toward the same goal so they can support each other along their journey toward healthier habits.   

Be Persistent

Don’t give up. Just because life got busy and you went a whole week without making it to the gym doesn’t mean you should quit trying. Contain your failure. Resolve to do better next week. Add gym time to your schedule and keep that appointment just as you would any other important commitment. You owe it to yourself to keep your promises.  

By Anita Dualeh