Most people use the start of a new year as a new beginning. They see the turning of the year as a clean slate. As such, the majority of people set goals that they feel will help them make each year better than the previous. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these people will abandon their goals long before the year is out and when they are still a long way from success. In fact, 80 percent of New Year’s resolutions fail by February. 

No one wants to give up on their goals, but it is not always easy to keep your eyes on the prize during hard times. Here are some surefire ways to help you stick to your New Year’s resolution and achieve your goals. 

Pick a goal that matters to you.

Achieving goals takes time, energy and patience. You have a limited supply of all three. If you are going to dedicate them to a task, it should be one that you feel is worthwhile, not one that someone tells you to want. If you have no interest in learning another language, do not sign up for Spanish classes. You will never bother to practice. If you have no problem with your current weight, do not set a goal to lose 10 pounds. You will not follow through.

When you set a goal, make sure you know why it matters to you. The sort of intrinsic motivation that makes something important to you will keep you going when you want to give up. If you cannot articulate a good reason to want to get in shape, decrease your spending or read more books when you first set your goals, you sure will not be able to remember why those goals are important when you become tired or want to give up.

Write it down.

There is something about the act of putting things on paper that makes them more likely to be completed. If you want to make appointments or follow through with deadlines, you should write them down. When you set a goal, you should write it down and put the goal somewhere you will see it often. This will serve as a visual reminder to you about what you are aiming for. If possible, tell someone about your goal as well. They can serve as an accountability buddy and help keep you on track when your motivation inevitably has an off day or off week. 

Set milestone goals.

Goals are simply projects you decided to undertake. So, like you would any massive project, break your goal down into smaller, more manageable chunks. If you want to lose 20 pounds by the end of the year, break your goal down into smaller increments. Aim to lose five pounds by April, another five by July, yet another five by October and the final five by Christmas Day. It is much easier to think about losing five pounds than 20. Closer deadlines will also make you less likely to push off doing the work to achieve your goal. If you think you have a year to do something, you might not bother really starting until May. By then, half the year is gone. If you have two months to reach a small goal, however, you will be more aware that there is no time to waste.

Celebrate your small successes.

When you reach one of your small milestone goals, celebrate. You may not have saved the $5,000 that is your goal, but you have reached the first $1,000 mark. That is worth celebrating. Keeping yourself aware of your small successes and continual progress will help you keep moving forward and remain motivated. 

You do not have to only celebrate specified goals either. If you wanted to get in shape, celebrate the first week when you went to the gym every day. That may not have been one of your express goals, but it is an important point of progress. Goals take a long time to achieve. Celebrate that you are continuing to move in the right direction. As Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.”

Give yourself some grace.

The unfortunate reality of chasing any goal is that you are almost guaranteed to backslide at least once. You will miss that workout, you will eat that cake, you will buy that coat you really do not need, you will have that one cigarette, you will text that jerk you swore you would get over and never talk to again. Obviously, you want to try to minimize backsliding and put it off for as long as possible. When it happens, however, you need to give yourself some grace. Do not beat yourself up because you were not perfect. Instead, figure out if there was an external reason you went wrong or if you simply fell off the wagon. Were you hanging around people whose habits were contrary to your goals or did you simply forget to get the leftover Halloween candy out of the house as soon as the trick-or-treating was done? Once you know why you backslid, address it so that it will not happen again. Then, forgive yourself for your mistakes and get right back into focusing on your goal. One mistake does not mean your goal is doomed to fail unless you decide that is what it means and give up.

Achieving your goals is not easy, but a little bit of preparation will go a long way toward helping you reach success. Know that you are going to lose motivation at some point, so be prepared to deal with that when the time comes. Force yourself to form good habits as early as you can in the year so that when your inspiration fails, you have habitual behavior to fall back on. If you fall off the wagon, dust yourself off and climb back on. Your goals are not going to come to you on their own. If you really want it, you need to go get it yourself. No one else can do it for you. You are the one who has to achieve your goals. You and only you.