A new year generally means that you’ve made some resolutions to guide the way. Maybe it’s a pledge to eat healthier, exercise more or finally give up smoking for good. Whatever your resolution is this year chances are it will sound familiar so how do you commit? Change is a process — and processes take time. To make this the year you stick to your resolutions, follow these recommended steps:
• Focus on starting a new habit, rather than quitting an old one.
• Choose realistic goals that are sustainable for the long term.
• Make sure your goals are specific and measurable, not vague.
• Be flexible and open to changing them along the way, if you need to.
• Identify obstacles that might get in the way of your success.
• Partner up with an accountability buddy.
• Set up reminders to help you stay motivated.
• Track your progress.
Let’s delve deeper into each of these tips to help you select and achieve your goals for the new year.

1. Focus on starting a behaviour
Research indicates that it’s easier to start a behaviour than to stop one — so instead of resolving to quit something, instead, resolve to begin doing something else. If you want to eat healthier, for example, your resolution could be to increase your fruit and vegetable intake rather than to avoid processed foods or cut out sugar.

Here are some other examples of how to flip the script from stopping a behaviour to starting one:

Another take on eating healthier could turn “I won’t order takeout anymore” into “I will cook at home at least four nights a week.”

To replace a negative habit with a positive one, a worthy goal like “I’m going to cut out soda” might instead become “I’m going to drink 8 ounces of water every day.”

To move more, “I’m going to stop watching so much TV” could turn into “I’m going to do yoga two nights a week.” Because, hey, you can’t do both at the same time!

2. Set realistic, ‘achievable’ goals
Choosing an unrealistic, unsustainable goal sets the stage for failure. Your resolution should reflect an activity or behaviour you can do for the long-term. Fad dieting, for example, isn’t something that anyone can realistically keep up. You are better positioned for success if you focus on something like mindful eating, where you can focus on sustainable behaviours based on food choices and how and when you eat.

3. Be specific
Vague goals like “exercise more,” “drink less” and “cut back on sugar” are impossible to quantify. It is important to set small, actionable goals that are well-defined.

4. Stay flexible
There can be a downside to setting very specific goals: When you don’t hit the mark, there’s nowhere to hide, and you may end up feeling discouraged or disappointed in yourself. But have you ever heard the phrase “Progress over perfection”? You don’t have to get it 100% right every single day. If, for example, you resolved to exercise for 20 minutes every day, but today happens to be the busiest, most chaotic day ever, don’t beat yourself up about it. It’s OK to do 10 or 15 minutes instead!

5. Identify obstacles
What’s likely to get in the way of your achieving your resolution? You probably already know what your potential pain points are, whether they’re physical obstacles (not having enough time) or emotional obstacles (like fear). Sometimes, the solutions are practical ones: If you’re trying to order takeout less often or scale back on your social media use, delete the apps from your phone. If you never want to exercise by the end of the day, start doing morning workouts.

But if your obstacles are of the mental and emotional variety, you may have to put in extra effort to bring a healthy mindset to your new healthy habits:

If you’re prone to negative thinking, get into doing positive affirmations.
If you’re hard on yourself about perceived failures, practice self-compassion.
If you hate that you’re not seeing results, work on dealing with perfectionism.

6. Get a buddy
Find a family member or friend who can help keep you on track. Why? Because one of the top predictors of success for keeping your resolution involves social support. In fact, one study found that 70% of people who sent weekly updates to an accountability partner were successful in reaching their goals, as compared to those who tried to go it alone. You could also consider a group resolution. For example: A family that pledges to sit down together for dinner at least once a week.

7. Remind yourself
It’s easy to get distracted with life and forget about your resolution. To keep your resolution fresh and at the front of your mind, implement some little tricks:

Post reminders at your desk or on your bathroom mirror.
Set your phone or calendar to send push notifications reminding you of your goal.
Add your goal to your to-do lists along with your chores and errands.

8. Track your progress
Keep a journal or tracking your progress on an app. If your goal is focused on exercise, for instance, there are numerous apps to log your activity. There are also many for food-based resolutions.

Maybe try setting an intention instead of a resolution. There’s something to be said for setting specific goals — but there are other ways to focus on self-improvement, too. If you encounter struggles, don’t give up. Instead, focus on getting back on track and not beating yourself up over a misstep.