It’s a rite of passage for millions of Americans every year.

Come Dec. 31, over 100 million people make New Year’s resolutions, perhaps planning to eat healthier, lose weight, save money, read more or one of many other self-improvement goals.

Statistics say that nearly half of adults make a New Year’s resolution, but less than 10 percent achieve their goals with most failing before the end of January.

If you are one of the many who made a resolution this year, use these tips to help you reach your goal, whether you have made it through the first week of January successfully or fallen off of your goal already.

First and foremost, understand that New Year’s resolutions are inherently hard. We don’t set goals for things that we are already doing successfully. Rather, the types of things we resolve to improve upon are often times things that we are not that consistent with.

Many times, people get discouraged because they are struggling to stick with their resolution. Recognize that this is normal, and anticipate it happening to you.

Second, be specific with your goals. Give yourself something tangible that you can work toward.

For example, rather than set a goal of losing weight, set a goal for how much weight you want to lose. If you want to exercise more, shoot for a specific number of days in a week or month that you want to exercise. Maybe you want to travel more. Give yourself a definite goal, such as how many different cities or states you want to visit.

Any time you can set a specific, measurable goal it gives you a stronger sense of purpose and helps you to be more likely to obtain that goal.

Next, if you really want to be serious about achieving your goal, tell someone what you are trying to do.

The people who are most likely to accomplish their resolutions are those who tell others what they are doing. And, if you really want extra help, find someone else who is working on the same resolution and hold each other accountable. We are relational beings, so when we set goals together, we leverage that aspect of ourselves.

Also, don’t be afraid to use social media to your advantage. Facebook is a great way to let others know of our goals and our progress, allowing others to encourage us along the way.

Lastly, if you fail to meet your goal, don’t give up.

So often I work with people on setting goals, and, as soon as they fail once, they stop trying altogether.

Overcoming this perfectionistic tendency is one of the biggest obstacles in working toward achieving goals. If you have already fallen short of your New Year’s resolution, look at refining it. Learn from what you struggled with, and see if there is a change you can make so your goal can be more obtainable.

Don’t allow yourself to have the all-or-nothing thoughts that come with most New Year’s resolutions. Remember that the ultimate goal is to improve upon yourself, and you can do that even if you don’t meet your goals perfectly.

Setting New Year’s resolutions may seem silly or stupid to some, especially with how few are actually met. Those who set goals, however, are much more likely to meet them than those who do not.

In setting a New Year’s resolution, you are moving from simply thinking about an area of your life that you would like to improve to a specific goal.

So if you’re reading this and have been working on your goal for just over a week, congrats! Take this as an encouragement to keep it up.

But if you haven’t set a goal, perhaps this will challenge you to find one you can work on this year, even if it is a week late.

• Mischa McCray is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. Send questions or topics you’d like him to discuss to mmccray@wpcgreenwood.org.

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