Ahhh, the holidays. They afford us an opportunity to spend time with those we hold most dear. A mix of family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and even those we have yet to meet manage to work their way into our lives during this magical time of year. The holidays also give us the opportunity to look back at the year that has passed, to reflect on both our successes and our challenges, and to make decisions on the direction we wish to head toward in the future.

As the year winds down and we look forward to the next, many of us view the new year as a clean slate and fresh starting point and feel compelled to make a change in the form of a New Year’s resolution.

Self-improvement has become a great American pastime. Statistically, about 44% of the US population makes a New Year’s resolution each year. Of that amount, only about 20% manage to achieve their new year’s objective in that first year. While most resolutions are made with the best intentions, many fall short due to a combination of unrealistic expectations, inadequate preparation and lost motivation.

If you’re planning to make a resolution for 2018, be sure to give your plan some thought before moving ahead! No matter what your goal, keep it simple and find ways to measure your accomplishments. Small improvements can lead to powerful changes, but you should be careful to not overcommit and try to do too much all at once. This quickly becomes overwhelming and frustrating, leading to lost motivation, which undoubtedly is the leading factor in resolution failure each year.

Small changes over time can make big differences in our lives, so don’t let statistics deter you from making a resolution this year. With a little bit of planning and determination, you can effect whatever change it is that you wish to make.

What are the top resolutions for 2018?

According to a recent Marist Poll survey, “being a better person” and weight loss are the number one goals, each with 12% of those that responded to the survey. Exercising more, eating healthier, and getting a better job came in with 9% each, 7% want to improve their overall health, 6% want to quit smoking and another 6% plan to spend less and save more financially. 30% of respondents listed other resolutions not included above.

When choosing to make a resolution, it’s important to understand your motivational style. If you are extrinsically motivated, you will find more success by making a change with the support of others. Whether it’s going to the gym with a workout buddy, or being part of a group focused on the same goals, these are the methods that have proven to be most helpful. However, if you are intrinsically motivated, you will find the drive you need from within, such as recognizing how great you feel after a workout, or high-fiving yourself for avoiding saying the wrong thing in a conversation.

It is easy to identify a change you’d like to make, but it’s not necessarily as easy to find ways to make it happen. No matter what path you choose, focus on individual actions you need to make to achieve your goals. If your actions are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound (SMART), you greatly increase your likelihood for success.  Separating long-term resolutions from short-term goals helps keep the plan manageable and reduces the potential of overwhelming you with the process.

When choosing your resolution, be realistic! For most, committing to working out three days a week and eating a salad every other day is far more reality-based than saying you’re going to hit the gym seven days a week and never eat carbs again. Life happens, and little slips can cause frustration and pave the way to failure.

Once you’ve chosen your resolution, visualize success and be positive about your mission. Think about how good it will feel to not have to go outside for that cigarette, or, recognize how much better you feel after cutting sugar from your diet. It might sound trivial, but if you can’t imagine it, you probably won’t be able to accomplish it.

Lastly, find a way to hold yourself accountable. Some folks are lucky to have a high level of self-discipline that helps keep them on track, but many of us have difficulty staying focused on our goals. Engage the support of friends and family – it can help you to stay on course. Find ways to reward your successes and learn from your misses. Stay positive in your journey and don’t be discouraged by a misstep. Remind yourself why you have chosen this path and get back on track as quickly as you can.

Hopefully, by this time next year, you will have kicked whatever it is you have resolved to do this year and you’ll be looking forward to something new and different in the coming year. But if that’s not the case, keep in mind that the start of the new year is just a date, and remember that any day is as good as another to start over. However it turns out to be, we wish you all the best in 2018!