Did you make a New Year resolution? And are you one of the small proportion of people (only one in eight according to a 2007 study) who actually succeed in carrying it through? If so, congratulations and Happy New Year! But if, like most people, you’ve already realised that yet again your New Year resolution isn’t going to work out (pun intended), then it might be worth thinking about a few things that can boost your chances of success.

Perhaps the first essential is to be realistic. It may feel great to say you’re going to run a marathon this year, but if you’ve never done any serious running before, then you’re setting yourself up for failure! Much better to say you’re going to go for a 30-minute run at least once a week for the next two months, and then you’re going to decide whether running is the thing for you or whether you need to choose some other form of exercise. This may not sound very heroic, but it’s something specific that you can actually do, and it’s only for two months!

And that’s another thing: take every opportunity to feel good about it! Don’t do it with gritted teeth, or beat yourself up if you occasionally miss your weekly run (perhaps because it’s snowing, as it is right now)! Think beforehand about how good you’re going to feel, and how much healthier you will be. And when you’re actually doing it, focus your attention on what you can enjoy about it, and on all the good that you’re doing yourself. And afterwards, give yourself a pat on the back (metaphorically), and think about what this proves about you as a person.

Finally, make sure you get support from your friends! Tell them what you’re planning to do, not in order to boast or make yourself a hostage to fortune, but to get their support. Explain that in the past you’ve never had much success with New Year resolutions, and this time you’re trying a different approach. Say that you’d like their help in this; you’d like to be able to talk with them about how you’re getting on, and get a (perhaps literal) pat on the back if things are going well, and have a chance to talk things through with them if you’re encountering any problems.

And if it’s now too late to start a New Year resolution for 2013, you don’t have to wait till 1 January 2014; these are suggestions that can help you with any change that you want to make in your life. So I hope you have a really good year in 2013!