The start of a new year is the perfect time to start fresh, which is probably why so many of us create New Year’s resolutions with the hopes of improving our lives. Creating a resolution can be a great opportunity to replace bad habits with new routines that help you grow socially, physically, emotionally, intellectually or psychologically. However, we often set resolutions that are unrealistic and difficult to maintain, leading us to eventually abandon our goals and settle back into old patterns. 

A recent survey shows that about 80% of people fail to stick to their New Year’s resolutions for longer than six weeks. This year, instead of setting a grand goal to completely transform your life, try setting goals to make a series of small changes. Small changes can make a large impact on our future and are oftentimes much easier to maintain. Set yourself up for success this year by following these guidelines when thinking about your New Year’s resolution:

Choose a Specific, Realistic Goal. Instead of making an ambiguous goal like “losing weight” or “getting in shape,” focus on a goal that is more concrete and achievable. A goal that you can realistically set your sights on, like committing to lose 10 pounds or going for a run every day after work. Choosing a specific, more realistic goal presents the opportunity to plan exactly how to accomplish it over the course of the year.

Pick Just One Resolution. Taking on too much all at once can be overwhelming. We all have bad habits that we want to eliminate, but establishing new behavioral patterns takes time. Instead of creating a long list of goals, focus all your efforts on one specific goal. 

Avoid Repeating Past Failures. If you select a resolution that you have failed to achieve in the past, spend time evaluating previous results. Ask yourself questions such as: “Which strategies were the most effective?”, “Which were the least effective?”, and “What roadblocks prevented me from achieving this goal last time?” By changing your approach, you will be more likely to see real, life-long results.

Get Support from Friends and Family. We’ve all heard it a million times, but let’s face it – the buddy system actually works. Staying motivated is much more achievable when you have a solid support system. Find a friend or family member that will help hold you accountable for achieving your goals. Even better, join a group of others that shares your same goal. 

Remember, Change Is a Process. Bad habits do not develop overnight; they take time, just like healthy habits take time. It may take longer than you plan to achieve your goal, but keep in mind that this is not a race to the finish. Making the commitment to changing a behavior is something that you will continue to work on for the rest of your life. 

Take control of your health this year by taking the time to really think about your resolution. The process may seem daunting at times, but setting and achieving small goals will allow you to make positive steps towards a healthier lifestyle.