It’s a new year, bright with the promise of new beginnings.You vow, “I’ll quit smoking, hit the gym, eat a healthier diet.” Maybe you even add that you’ll fall in love, rekindle your passion for music, go back to school or get a job you really like. If you’re like most people, you’re so busy with day-to-day life that you push aside that little nagging voice inside telling you that your life could be better. You promise yourself it will all happen “soon,” but instead you get distracted and discard your determination for creating the life you really want. New Year’s resolutions can be your chance to decide what to change about your life and change it. It’s a chance to take an introspective look at your life.

Here are some of the most common promises people make to themselves:

• Lose weight

• Quit addictive habits

• Change careers

• Reawaken dormant talents

• Stick to a budget

• Improve personal relationships

• Achieve a long-held dream

Look these over and use them as a starting point. By using intelligence and creativity, you’ll begin to see an inner picture of the life that will make you happy. Let your imagination flow and see in your mind the end result of your dreams and how that makes you feel.

Decide what you most want to change about your life and make a list. Resolution statements tend to come with a “should” or “must.” You will more likely be successful, however, if you make it a “want to” intention rather than a “have to” chore. Prioritize what’s most important and make a definite decision on what you are going to change first this year. Review your list of resolutions and then develop a written action plan that spells out step-by-step how to fulfill your goals and commit to them.

Create a resolution calendar marked with clear small achievements to keep you on track and give you the confidence to continue. Keep your planning calendar in a highly visible space to serve as a reminder of the new strategies you’re incorporating into your life. Schedule dedicated time each week to monitor the results and make adjustments. In order to be successful you need focus, accountability and persistence. Resolutions are made in just one day, but they are implemented throughout the whole year.

Keep developing a strong-willed inner voice that supports and matches your dreams. Monitor your thinking and make sure it matches with the intention of your resolutions. Remember that something big and important usually takes a while to accomplish. With the passage of each week, try to lovingly look at what went wrong and with new clarity reset your intentions for the coming week. If you slack off, don’t be critical, just get back to following through on your goals. Respect yourself at all times and never stop dreaming.

Create a goal-friendly environment and circumstances that cultivate success. Remember to celebrate each milestone and reward yourself for your perseverance. Keep visualizing what your life will be like when your goal is finally reached. Obsessing over failures or occasional slips won’t help you get back to the drawing board and start over each day with a commitment to do the best you can.

By working on your goal all year long, you can be one of the few who will be able to say that you really did keep your New Year’s resolution. 

Patti Carmalt-Vener, a faculty member with the Southern California Society for Intensive Short Term Psychotherapy, has been a psychotherapist in private practice for 23 years and has an office in Pasadena. Contact her at (626) 584-8582 or email Visit her website,