Are you ready to commit? Turning resolutions into reality

It’s a cherished annual tradition: We make New Year’s resolutions to get fit, spend less or do whatever it takes to become a better version of ourselves. But within a few weeks, we forget all about them.

This year, why not break with tradition? If you really want to make a change for the better, don’t just write down a resolution – think about what it will take to achieve it, and make a plan to succeed.

Here are 10 questions to consider as you’re making – and preparing to keep – your 2015 New Year’s resolutions.

  1. Do you really want to commit? When making a resolution, make sure your goal is something that you really want to achieve. Even if you know that quitting tobacco would be good for your health, if you really don't want to quit, you probably won’t succeed.
  2. Are you ready to tell people? You’ll know you’re ready to commit to your goal if you’re willing to tell someone else about it. If you prefer to keep it to yourself, you’re probably not ready to change. When you’re ready to commit, confide in someone close to you – someone who will support your efforts and hold you accountable.
  3. Is it realistic? Make sure your resolution is something that you can realistically accomplish in the next year.
  4. What is your plan? The surest way to reach your goal is not in one gigantic leap, but one small step at a time. Plan out your small steps.
  5. What is your timeline? How long will it take you to make the change you’re thinking about? If you want to lose 10 pounds, for example, don’t give up if you haven’t lost it all by the end of January. Set a realistic timeframe. Allowing a few months to work toward your goal is more realistic than expecting immediate results.
  6. How will you keep it simple? Setting steps and timelines is good, but don’t get too bogged down in the details. If your goal is to stay in better touch with your son, for example, and your steps are to talk to him each week, it’s not necessary to map out the details of each conversation. Stick with the basics, be flexible and keep it simple.
  7. How will you recognize success? Often we succeed without realizing it. Be clear about specific results that show your success. Find markers along the way to track your achievement. Not all weight-loss goals end at the number on the scale. Track inches lost, energy gained or percentage of goal met to recognize your success.
  8. What pitfalls do you anticipate? There’s no getting around it: You will face obstacles. Be mindful of the things that might get in the way of your plans and throw you off track. Identifying the potential pitfalls in advance gives you the power to anticipate and plan for them.
  9. What is your plan if you need to reboot? If you have a setback, have a plan ready for maintaining your motivation and starting again. A setback is only a failure if you don’t get back up and start moving again toward your goal.
  10. How will you reward yourself? Achieving your resolution is the big reward, but planning smaller rewards along the way will help you maintain your motivation and momentum. Think ahead: How will you reward yourself for meeting your milestones? Choose rewards that celebrate your accomplishments without setting you back.
Thinking about these questions will take a little more effort than scribbling down a couple of resolutions, but you’ll be much more likely to follow through on your good intentions and make some real changes for the better. If you think it feels good to make resolutions on Jan. 1, just wait until you see how great it feels to achieve them.