Despite the fact that every day presents a new opportunity for a fresh start, the beginning of a new year is typically the time many people think about making dramatic changes in their lives.  According to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, if you are one of the 45% of American’s who made a resolution this year the chances are high that your resolution is to lose weight, start exercising or to quit smoking.

Unfortunately, University of Scranton research suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Common mistakes people tend to make even before they start are to sabotage their goal by making it feel negative. This happens by making it about what “should” be done, rather than what they choose to do. Worse, they think about what they should stop doing, rather than what they actually want to achieve.

To be successful at any change, you need to commit to it, but it’s equally important to know what you’ll have when you have what you want. In other words, to focus on what you REALLY want instead of just making a goal?  One life coach suggests that when clients come to her for help with weight loss, what they really want is to feel more confident or have more energy.  The key is to recognize how you want to feel when you reach your goal.   

Unless you take time to consider what it is you really want (rather than what you should do or should stop doing) and how you’ll feel when you achieve your goal, you will invariably end up making a resolution to which you are not genuinely committed.

Without commitment, you aren’t motivated and after the first obstacle, you will inevitably quit.

To avoid this mishap and be among the percentage who make their resolutions stick, try these tips:

1. Keep a Journal

Write down your goal and then ask yourself what will you have when you achieve your goal? Will you have more energy, better health, or win the “biggest loser challenge” at the office.  Write down your answer and then ask yourself how you will feel when you achieve your goal. And be specific.  Will you feel more confident, lovable, or more attractive? Will you be able to breathe easier or will you have more money by kicking the tobacco habit or will your family benefit from not being exposed to second-hand smoke? Be honest with yourself.  Close your eyes and imagine what it will feel like.

2. Start small

Once you’re clear on the reasons you’re embarking on this journey, break down your goals into small, measurable steps. If your aim is to exercise, schedule three or four days a week at the gym instead of seven. If you would like to eat healthier, try replacing dessert with something else you enjoy, like fruit or yogurt.

3. Change one behavior at a time

Replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Don’t get overwhelmed and think that you have to reassess everything in your life. Instead, work toward making one change at a time.

4. Talk about it

Share your experiences and goals with family and friends. Tell your coworkers about your goal and/or share it on your Facebook page. This will help keep you accountable and also engage others in your plan so they can find ways to help. Having someone to share your struggles and successes with makes your journey to a healthier lifestyle that much easier and less intimidating.

5. Get support

Consider joining a support group to reach your goals, such as a workout class at your gym or a group of coworkers quitting smoking.  If you’re looking to lose weight, seek the assistance of a certified dietitian.  She or he can provide support, offer nutrition resources and help keep you accountable to your goals. Some grocery stores offer nutrition services for free – the will even help you learn to read labels and buy groceries that will help you stay on track. If you’re looking to start an exercise routine, get a workout buddy or hire a trainer.  For support with smoking cessation, learn more about your options at quit.com or visit your Healthcare Provider.

6. Give yourself a break

Progress, not perfection is attainable. Remember that minor missteps when reaching your goals are completely normal and OK. Don’t give up completely because you broke your diet, or skipped the gym. Recognize that you’re human and resolve to be bigger than your fear. You can get back on track.

7. Celebrate your success

One of the best ways to keep the positive momentum going is to celebrate your small victories. Acknowledge yourself and your accomplishments will send a signal to your brain that you CAN do it. This will help give you the emotional reminder the next time you face an obstacle.

Remember, the best way to keep your resolution promise to yourself is to know what that promise will feel like when you’ve reached it.