Very few people take New Year’s resolutions seriously. According to a recent study, only 8 to 12% of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually keep them, and less than half of us bother to make them at all. The beginning of a new year is the ideal time to make changes in our lives because we naturally pause, look back at the past year and take in a big-picture view of where we are headed. The problem is many of us make the same mistakes year after year in how we approach making changes in our lives.

If you want this year to be different, avoid these six major pitfalls.

Mistake #1: Calling them New Year’s resolutions. As soon as you utter these words, you are doomed to fail. The first step toward success is swapping out the term New Year’s resolution with a more meaningful word such as a goal or plan. Most resolutions are just wishful thinking or good intentions we set in January, but by the time February rolls around, they feel stale, like month-old gingerbread cookies. Goals and plans are fresh and powerful year-round and are less likely to fizzle out by spring. By definition, they require forethought and effort.

Mistake #2: Going with the first thing that pops into your head. Most people make resolutions on a whim without giving them much thought.

  • A better strategy is to find some quiet time to evaluate what’s important to you. Get out in nature and go for a leisurely walk or bike ride, or try sitting quietly and meditating on what you desire most in your life right now. Just observe the thoughts and feelings that arise without judgment.
  • Answer this important question: If anything were possible, what change would you like to see in your life? Using all of your senses, create a vision of what it would be like to live the life of your dreams.
  • If you are struggling to formulate a plan, brainstorm with a friend and have her act as a sounding board.

Mistake #3: Thinking about your goals, but not recording them anywhere.
One of the most for achieving your goals is the act of writing them down. According to research conducted by Dr. Gail Matthews at Dominican University in California, you are 42% more likely to reach your goals if you write them down.

Put your specific goal on paper and plaster it all over your house. Tape it on your bathroom mirror, hang it on your fridge, post a note on your computer screen, and share it on social media. These will serve as constant reminders of what you’re trying to accomplish, and they will increase your awareness of new opportunities that come your way that will bring you closer to your goal.

Mistake #4: Making your goals broad and open-ended: “I want to travel more, find a romantic partner and become a millionaire. ” With sweeping goals like these, you probably wouldn’t even know where to start.

Begin by focusing on one area of your life at a time – relationships, career, finances or pleasure.
Instead of making it big, bold and daunting, choose a realistic goal and break it up into small actionable steps that can be measured within a given time frame. As you reach the benchmarks you set, celebrate your successes with small rewards.

Mistake #5: Keeping it a secret. Many people hesitate to share their goals with family, friends or co-workers to spare themselves the embarrassment of telling them they have made little or no progress toward their goal.

Instead of keeping it to yourself, share your aspirations and plans, especially with those who care about you, so they can help keep you accountable. This positive peer pressure can motivate you to take action. Matthews’ research shows that when you not only write your goals down, but also receive support from a friend, it significantly increases your chance of success.

Mistake #6: Waiting to get started. Procrastination is the biggest obstacle to achieving your goals and living the life you truly want. As Pablo Picasso once said, “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone. ”

What positive change would you like to see in your life? Take time right now to write down your goals and break them into small actionable steps – and don’t forget to share them with the important people in your life.