Are you planning on making a list of New Years resolutions for 2014? More importantly, do you make these lists and then consistently drop the ball and not follow through? If so, think about the overall effect of making resolutions and not sticking to them. What does it make you think and feel about yourself? Most likely, you end up only feeling guilty and perhaps even slightly ashamed that, yet again, you could not reach your goals. But what if the problem here was not that you were lazy or unmotivated but that you made goals that could not realistically be reached? Are you making New Years resolutions that only set you up to fail?

Here are 5 key ingredients to making good New Years resolutions. This year, if you want to set goals for yourself, try to have them include these elements.

  1. Make it realistic. What are the chances that you will stick to this resolution or accomplish your goal if it is unrealistic or unattainable? Probably not that good. Be honest with yourself about what you can reasonably accomplish and start there. Does it really make sense that you will lost 20 pounds in a month? No! Challenge yourself, but keep it realistic. Do not make your resolution another way for you to be critical about yourself.
  2. Make sure it is measurable. If your resolution is to “eat healthier,” how do you measure your success with that? Operationalize your terms — get specific. What exactly will it look like to eat healthier? Eat out only once a week, eat green vegetables every day, cut out refined sugar? If you cannot measure it, you cannot track whether or not you are reaching your goal. And if you cannot keep track of your change, you will probably not continue to work toward your goals.
  3. Make it life enhancing. All too often, we choose resolutions/goals out of self-loathing, setting ourselves up to only deal with ourselves in a negative way as we try to change. For example, the goal of losing weight is often born out of not accepting our bodies just as they are and then doing whatever possible (even taking unhealthy measures) to lose weight. Try reframing goals to be positive (i.e. “I am not going to focus on how much I weigh, rather I will try to keep my blood pressure and BMI in a healthy range so that I am healthier”) rather than negative.
  4. Make sure it is congruent with who you are. Set goals that fit with your values. Do not take on something that you think everyone else will like. You will be more likely to stick with the changes if they are congruent with who you are at your core.
  5. Make it something that builds on your inherent strengths. Even if your goal is a real challenge for you, frame it in a way that builds on what you are already good at. If you want to lose some weight and know that you really love to swim, make swimming a key feature of your weight-loss plan. Trying to make yourself do something that is just not in your wheelhouse is probably a set up for failure. When you work with what you’ve got, you will also feel better about yourself because you are actively acknowledging your inherent strengths and what you already like about yourself.