To be resolute means to be purposeful, determined, and unwavering in your intent and action. It implies commitment in the truest sense – dedicated and obligated. The phrase, “hell or high-water” comes to mind. In the course of our lives we often make commitments. Yet it seems that often, commitment takes a second seat to convenience, comfort and routine. Without true resolve, the only thing easier than making a commitment is breaking one.

This is especially true when it comes to personal commitments, that is, commitments one has made to oneself – as in a New Year’s resolution. Research shows that the percentage of people who maintain New Year’s resolutions falls sharply as the weeks go by. A Journal of Clinical Psychology study showed that over a third of all New Year’s resolutions are abandoned by the end of the first month.

The most popular resolutions have to do with desired changes in behavior. Weight loss, quitting smoking, eating better, exercising more, drinking less, managing stress better, spending more quality time with loved ones, maintaining a budget – all are behavioral changes and none are easy.

Without being truly resolved and committed to change, change will not happen. This means clearly recognizing the problems that are created by continuing the current behavior, and visualizing the benefits to be derived from the change. Since no significant change comes without sacrifice and some degree of pain, accepting that pain is a part of the process before starting helps. For many, change won’t occur until the pain of not changing is greater than the pain of making a change. Not changing an exercise and eating routine until after a heart attack is a good example.

Sometimes the resolutions we make at the start of a new year are mere hopes and wishes which we never intended to keep. But for many, resolutions reflect a real desire for something better – a change in lifestyle and behavior that bring about greater happiness.

The American Psychological Association has outlined several steps to help you make lasting, positive lifestyle and behavior changes:

Make a plan that will stick

Your plan is a map that will guide you on this journey of change. You can even think of it as an adventure. When making your plan, be specific. Want to exercise more? Detail the time of day when you can take walks and how long you’ll walk. Write everything down, and ask yourself if you’re confident that these activities and goals are realistic for you. If not, start with smaller steps. Post your plan where you’ll most often see it as a reminder.

Start small

After you’ve identified realistic short-term and long-term goals, break down your goals into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined and can be measured. Is your long-term goal to lose 20 pounds within the next five months? A good weekly goal would be to lose one pound a week. If you would like to eat healthier, consider as a goal for the week replacing dessert with a healthier option, like fruit or yogurt. At the end of the week, you’ll feel successful knowing you met your goal.

Change one behavior at a time

Unhealthy behaviors develop over the course of time, so replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthy ones requires time. Many people run into problems when they try to change too much too fast. To improve your success, focus on one goal or change at a time. As new healthy behaviors become a habit, try to add another goal that works toward the overall change you’re striving for.

Involve a buddy

Whether it is a friend, co-worker or family member, someone else on your journey will keep you motivated and accountable. Perhaps it can be someone who will go to the gym with you or someone who is also trying to stop smoking. Talk about what you are doing. Consider joining a support group. Having someone with who to share your struggles and successes makes the work easier and the mission less intimidating.

Ask for support

Accepting help from those who care about you and will listen strengthens your resilience and commitment. If you feel overwhelmed or unable to meet your goals on your own, consider seeking help from a counselor. Asking for help doesn’t mean a lifetime of therapy; even just a few sessions can help you examine and set attainable goals or address the emotional issues that may be getting in your way.

Making long-lasting change takes a real commitment – true resolve – and it is never easy. But no great reward comes without hard work and the support of others. If you need help on your road to change, the counselors at Capital EAP are ready to help.