Did you make a New Year’s Resolution this year?

If you’re like most people your resolve to change has already started melting away, like ice cream dripping down the side of a cone on a hot July afternoon. In another two or three weeks, the commitment that seemed to strong in December will be laying at your feet in a messy pool of forgotten dreams.

So why is that? Why do we keep making promises to change that we don’t keep?

Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Ottawa’s Carleton University, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” an effort to reinvent oneself. People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves, he says. Pychyl argues that people aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.

Change requires practice – your brain must create new neural pathways before a fresh habit can be fully installed. So how can you affect real change in your life? Here are five tips to get you started:

  1. Don’t wait for New Year’s. Continuous improvement is based on a year-round plan.
  2. Choose a goal that will have real, positive impact on your life. And be specific. If you want to lose weight, how much do you want to lose, and by when?
  3. List the benefits of achieving your goal, and the downside of not getting there.
  4. Set milestones along the way, and celebrate when you reach each one.
  5. Focus on now – what can you do today, right now, toward achieving your goal.

And to stay on track, get yourself an accountability partner, someone to hold your feet to the fire.

Consider hiring a personal coach, or joining a Mastermind group. The fact you must check in with someone on a regular basis is a great motivator.

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