Every new year presents an opportunity to mull over our current situation and think of what changes we might make to improve our health or our lives in general. However, we’re all familiar with the bad reputation of New Year’s resolutions, right?

Our resolve and motivation to keep them frequently doesn’t last all year long. Sometimes it only lasts a few weeks or months, then we feel bad for not keeping up the new good habit. We beat ourselves up for not having adequate will-power or being able to sustain something that was sure to improve our lives, so an idea that was meant to make our lives better ends up stressing us out and making us feel like a failure. Sound familiar? Perhaps this is why many people have given up on making resolutions along with the incoming new year.

It doesn’t have to be that way, though. We can give ourselves a true, fresh start this month by approaching our resolutions in a new way. Last summer on the Very Well Mind website, Kendra Cherry, M.S. offered some useful tips that are well worth sharing. Consider the summary below so you can design a useful resolution, keep it up throughout the year and be proud when you look back in December 2020.

Choose one realistic & specific goal

There may be many things you would like to change, but choose just one for your resolution. Too many goals or goals that are too broad can overstress us and create anxiety. Being specific about what you want to change will help you target what to do differently each day. Narrow it down to specific behaviors you can do each day that move you to your goal.

Choose a new goal with a plan of small steps that get you there

One strategy is to make sure your resolution is a new one. It is possible to finally achieve a goal we have tried in the past, but to get a fresh start, consider a new goal that has no history attached to it. Once you keep a resolution all through the year, you will have a strong self-belief that you can tackle a more difficult one next year. Develop steps that will get you to your end goal. Even consider writing them down to grind in what you need to do each day.

Set up a support system that keeps you in the process of change

Understand that change is a process. It is often said that it take 21 times of a new behavior for it to become a habit. It probably took you a long time to develop the thing you want to change, so don’t expect the un-doing of it to happen in a matter of days. Ask friends and family to support you in your challenge. An accountability buddy system, someone you can call or who can call you regularly, has a strong impact on keeping you motivated.

Setbacks are simply challenges on a journey

Finally, a new resolution is a windy road. You may not make the mark every day, but the fact that you are still on the road is a victory. Renew your commitment to yourself each day and trudge on. Consider a resolution diary and look back on days where you really met your daily goal. Keep your motivation alive by reminding yourself why you want to make this change and what it will do for you as you enter the new “Roaring 20’s!”

Bill Mory is a Texoma-based licensed therapist in private practice. He integrates mindfulness training in working counseling clients and is a strong community-building advocate and provider of workplace training on a variety of topics.