Every year at this time, New Year’s Resolutions come to mind. It’s a topic frequently discussed and often if you don’t have some resolution then you’re forced to come up with a decent explanation as to why you don’t have one (or two, or eleven…).

Whether you make resolutions or not, the New Year can be a great time to start new things. If you do want to make some changes in your life, here are some thoughts:

When we think of our lives being better we tend to come up with a pretty long laundry list. Sooner than later we are overwhelmed with everything that we want to be different – looks, bad habits gone, good habits started, better with money, better families – the list could go on and on. Even if you had three things you wanted to change it could be overwhelming.

The key to success is to focus on one area and start simple. Lifestyle changes take time. You are learning something new, and therefore that means you’re going to have to learn to master it.

Look at what changes you want to make and break it up into steps or phases. Some resolutions – like eating better or exercising regularly – do take more planning. For example, if you goal is to work out five times a week, start off with trying twice a week. Get the habit started, and then build on it. Some might have the iron clad resolve to start off at 5 days a week from January 1st, but maybe you are someone who needs to ease into it. Pick a date when you’ll increase your attempts – from two days a week to three, three days a week to four, etc. Moving through each phase will eventually get you where you want to be, and at a pace that you are ready for.

Have a buddy! Having those around you who are also making changes or willing to support you does make a difference. You can give and receive support from others who are trying to overcome challenges in their lives. If you want to work out more, find someone who will run/walk/work out with you. Not only are you helping one another stay consistent, but you can build a relationship too.

Seek help when necessary. Sometimes the changes we want to make are about having improved mental health and more harmonious relationships. Depression, anxiety and strained family relationships often can benefit greatly from professional help. Other times you might want to be more physically fit and take care of yourself so engaging in getting a physical and finding out preventative health measures you can take now would be a good start.

Have a family resolution. Often we think of resolutions as individual things, but why not have one for your family? Maybe this is the year to start Family Game Night, or make sure that you and your partner get two date nights a month. Sometimes the best resolutions are the ones you come up with together. Family resolutions can have the greatest impact because you are looking to change an entire system – not just one person.

Finally, you can start resolutions any time. I know that January 1st is the classic day to start, but in order to be successful you need to plan things out. Habits need 30 days to be started and 90 days to become a lifestyle. Planning out how you want to change will help you stay on track.

It is my hope that you have found these thoughts helpful. If you are going to try something new – I wish you luck! Happy New Year!