Making and breaking New Year’s resolutions are as much a tradition as having a glass of bubbly and watching the ball drop. Research shows that by the time spring arrives, most of us who set such goals on December 31st have thrown in the towel.

Popular New Year’s resolutions – according to website — are as follows:

  • Lose Weight
  • Manage Debt
  • Save Money
  • Get a Better Job
  • Get Fit
  • Get a Better Education
  • Drink Less Alcohol
  • Quit Smoking Now
  • Reduce Stress Overall
  • Reduce Stress at Work
  • Take a Trip
  • Volunteer to Help Others

The experts say we don’t stick to these goals because they are too ambitious and too ambiguous. However, with some fine-tuning – little steps made with defined plans of action – these resolutions can be more than ideals. Public health departments from around the country have devised methods for doing just that. Here’s one from Massachusetts:

Revisit: Is your resolution vague? “I’m going to be more active this year.” Try something more specific like “I’m going to walk for 20 minutes at lunch, three days a week.” This will help you be clear about your goal.

Rephrase: Are you trying to do too much too soon? “I’ll run five days a week for 30 minutes” may be unrealistic. Instead, push yourself a little bit past your current activity level. A better resolution might be, “I will combine fast walking and slow jogging for 15 minutes, three times per week.”

Refocus: Are you bored with your resolution? Make it fun! Find a resolution-related event for which to train (fun-runs, walks, bike rides, etc.). Many of these activities raise money for charity so you’ll be helping a good cause while helping yourself!

Request help: It’s really hard to change a habit all by yourself. Tell your family and friends about your resolution. Ask them to give you a nudge when you feel your enthusiasm waning. Maybe they’ll even join you in your three-times-a-week walk.

Change is difficult to achieve. Failure to succeed at change can be frustrating and stressful. However, change is possible. Setting realistic goals and a plan of action will go a long way toward making your resolutions – whether optimistically announced at boisterous New Year’s festivities or adopted during moments of quiet reflection – permanent.

[Janet Lubman Rathner]