As I pause to write this, I am reminded that the people I work with are in the process of trying to make positive changes in their lives. Indeed, this time of year most people have given at least passing thought to making changes or setting resolutions.

Here are eight tips that may help you add a little power to your resolutions and make them stick.

1. Set a realistic goal

Keep it realistic. Sometimes the goals that people speak of sound more like guilt topics than realistic change plans. It is common for people who are depressed, for example, to be preoccupied with shoulds like “I should be more [blank]” or “I should be less [blank]” or “I shouldn't do [blank].” A good goal is not just a vague intention or expression of guilt. Rather, a good goal is one that is relevant and that has a reasonable chance for success. For perfectionists who set unrealistic, high goals for themselves I like to have them consider steps or objectives that are shorter term and to consider working towards one of those objectives.

2. Have a plan

A wise person once said that a goal without a plan is just wishful thinking. You can significantly increase the power of your goal by actually working out a plan as to exactly how you're going to reach your goal. Include in your plan what steps you will take, where and how you will take these steps, and how you will cope with challenges such as cravings.

3. Write down your goal

Research tells us that if you write down your goal you are actually more likely to achieve it than if you don't write it down. Try writing out your plan as well as your goal and while you're at it, be specific. Of course, you don't have to “write down” your goal and plan on paper; you can use one of many available smart phone apps.

4. Tap into social power

Just telling someone else what you plan to achieve increases your chance of success. Beyond that, involving a friend or supportive person in your plan taps into a social power source that we often miss out on. Sometimes this means just having someone else to join you in your new activity, such as exercising with you. Other times this means having an accountability partner who knows what you're trying to achieve, is getting regular updates from you, and believes in you. At times when I have been an accountability partner for a person making change we agree that the person will send me a daily email with a one line report on their progress.

5. Reward yourself for steps

People often think that positive change should be enough reward in itself. One problem with this is that the rewards of positive change sometimes take a while to start coming in. Another problem with this is that other rewards are often competing with what we want to achieve. For example, it's not that going to the gym will give you a reward and staying on the sofa gives no reward. Sometimes we fail to make positive changes because the short-term rewards of comfort and avoidance are more powerful in the moment than the longer-term rewards we stand to gain later on. I use small rewards for myself a lot to overcome the power of the competing short-term reward.

6. Tell yourself a setback is not a failure

Giving up is tempting and easy. Getting back on track when you have slipped is unbelievably important. Research tells us that people who forgive themselves are actually more likely to get back on track than people who beat themselves up after a slip-up. Also, be flexible; the goal and plan may need to change. If you find you are getting off track then this may mean that you need to tweak your goal or plan.

7. Keep a chart of your behavior

Psychologists have discovered that there is something about tracking progress towards a goal that increases your chance of success. If you have used an app to write down your goal you should be able to track your progress with the same app. Tracking your progress lets you know if your efforts are paying off and you can gain further motivation from the feeling of success this brings. If you see that your strategy isn't working this is also beneficial as it gives you the opportunity to adjust your plan or your goal.

8. Tap into your higher power

You may be familiar with the fact that 12-step programs encourage people to make use of their higher power. For some people this may mean getting strength and purpose from seeing themselves as a part of something bigger than themselves. For others, strength can be gained from seeing the bigger meaning of the change they will or won't make. For still others, there is strength to be found in being a part of a spiritual community. For those who believe in God, there can be power in praying for help with the challenges involved in making change.

I wish you success on your journey. For those who would like a worksheet to help guide them in the change process I have added a resolutions handout to my handouts page. Remember, although New Year's is a traditional and convenient time to set a resolution, any day is a great day for positive change!