Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.
― Brad Paisley

Who knew that a country music star would have such an insightful take on New Year’s resolutions? A new year means a new start, a clean slate, a chance to approach life with fresh eyes and a different outlook, but how many of us realize in late December that the promises we made to ourselves 12 months prior have yet again failed to come to fruition? According to research conducted by the University of Scranton, 45 percent of Americans usually make New Year’s resolutions, but only 8 percent are successful in achieving them. We’ve got 8 ways you can help improve those odds:

1. Be Realistic

The quickest way to handicap your success is to set unattainable goals. It’s fantastic to want to get out of a debt, but declaring your desire to erase $10,000 off your credit cards in a month doesn’t make sense unless you’re pulling in a few grand every couple of days to begin with. In the same vein, you can’t write down a long list of 50 New Year’s resolutions and expect to devote the necessary attention to them all. Decide which of your goals are most important to you – or which will have the biggest impact on your life – and make those a priority.

2. Set Yourself Up for Success

Start fresh by ditching naysayers and anything else (unhealthy food, tempting credit cards, a fully stocked liquor cabinet, indiscriminate spending, sabotaging friends) that could stand between you and your goal. Beware of abruptly altering your entire existence; if you try to crash diet and banish everything you’ve ever loved to eat, you’re going to hate food and crave those “naughty” delicacies more than ever. Make small changes such as trading in sugary soda for seltzer water or skipping your daily frappacappuccino and putting the money into your newly established travel fund instead.

3. Check Yourself (Before You Wreck Yourself)

Have you ever driven from point A to point B without remembering quite how you got there? Sometimes our brain is all too happy to set itself on autopilot, but that kind of mind-body detachment relegates us to playing a bit part in our lives when we should be in a starring role. Set up milestones that require you to check in on your own progress and enjoy the process every bit as much as you’re going to enjoy the result. Know that not all resolutions can be tackled the exact same way. While ditching cigarettes can conceivably be done “cold turkey,” you can’t go from couch potato to marathon champion overnight. Instead, set smaller goals based on distance and/or time; every mini-goal you meet should be celebrated, and then you owe it to yourself to try and run just a little bit farther or cross the finish line just a tiny bit faster.

4. Garner Support

Maybe you can achieve your resolutions alone, but why try when you can have the support of a group of like-minded people? Not only can you encourage each other to stay on track, you can also share success stories, trade healthy recipes, recommend budget apps, band together for volunteer activities, start a swim team or hiking crew, train for the marathon – the possibilities are literally endless. There are countless communities available to you, but Facebook, Google, and SparkPeople are all popular options, depending on your intended use.

5. Get Advice from Experts

Smart people know when to ask for help. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, call an accountant. If you want to give more back to the community, contact your local food bank and see where you can be of assistance. If you want to learn to cook, take classes with a chef. If you want to lose weight, enlist the help of medical professional and do it the right way.

6. Track Your Progress Publicly

We’re not saying you need to post every little detail of your journey on social media in order to be accountable – although bragging rights aren’t the only reason your fitness-obsessed friend checks into the gym every morning – it’s just that the mere act of writing down those little successes can help keep you on track. By focusing on what you did right (taking the stairs instead of the elevator, meditating away stress at your desk instead of rushing out for a smoke break) versus what you wish you hadn’t done (eating the whole donut instead of the half you swore you’d restrict yourself to), you’re being kind to yourself – and you deserve it. Besides, for most people, negative reinforcement isn’t going to lead to positive results; snapping a rubber band against your wrist every time you crave a burger doesn’t make you want McDonalds any less, it just gives you a red wrist and a hatred for rubber bands.

7. Recognize That Faltering is Not Failing

Everybody has a bad day, everybody screws up, and absolutely no one is perfect. If you try to hold yourself to impossible standards you’re bound to fall short, and that can be downright demoralizing. Every step in the right direction is worthy of recognition, so act like it, and when that slice of birthday cake proves too strong to resist, make a conscious decision to have a taste – and then make an equally conscious decision to put the rest down and choose future satisfaction over immediate gratification.

Vitality Health is dedicated to helping you answer the question, “What is Your Wellness?” As part of our commitment to fostering healthier living across our community, we’re backing your New Year resolutions with some promises of our own. Contact us now to take advantage of our “New Year, New You!” packages and sign up to lose 12% of your current body weight in 12 weeks with our physician-guided weight loss program or get 20% off our physician-guided smoking cessation program.