How about New Year’s resolutions that work?

New Year’s resolutions might not seem like a great idea since few of us manage to keep them. But making a smart resolution can do a number of good things for you.

Making New Year’s resolutions that you’re sure to break is a bad idea. Broken resolutions can make you feel like a failure, someone who has fallen short of his or her goals. It can seem an example of weakness and can erode self-confidence and self-esteem.

Bad resolutions are resolving to do things that are going to be close to impossible to achieve. You won’t lose 30 pounds in one month, or won’t suddenly look like an Olympic athlete just because you resolve to start visiting the gym again.

While such resolutions aren’t really helpful, and possibly harmful when you fail at them, it doesn’t mean that sensible resolutions are something to avoid. Resolutions usually mean positive changes. Well-planned resolutions can help improve parts of your life and provide a positive sense of accomplishment.

The key to successful resolutions is to set realistic goals. Usually that means breaking big tasks in to smaller, more manageable units. Take losing weight. Forget the total number of pounds you want to lose, and instead make your goal small changes to a healthier diet that will naturally lead to weight loss. Instead of radical dieting, have a mini-goal of cutting out one high calorie food each week and replacing it with a healthier fruit or vegetable.

If getting back in shape is your goal, start slowly with things you can certainly accomplish and then build on that as time goes by. Maybe it’s just getting in a daily 15-minute walk, an easy goal and one that can be increased as your fitness improves.

Similarly, while stopping smoking is a common resolution, trying to do it “cold turkey” is a difficult task. Instead, try an initial mini-goal of cutting by 10% the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Or maybe your goal is to simply start the process by contacting your doctor or local hospital about smoking cessation programs or stop-smoking aids.

Creating realistic resolutions with attainable mini-goals is a means for developing a plan to reach your final goal. As you accomplish those mini-goals, it provides reinforcement to help motivate you to move on to that next step. And that is what makes for a smart and successful New Year’s resolution.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association. Comments and questions to or visit the ACA website at