How to Stick to Your New Year's Resolutions

New Year's resolutions can be both troublesome and rewarding. Many people make them, but few make a real committment to them. Before you put the champagne on ice, spend some time pondering exactly what you hope to achieve in the year ahead and how you plan to do it.

Be very specific about your resolution. Don't say: "I want to lose weight." Do say: "I want to lose 5 pounds a month so that I look hot in my new swimsuit on the fourth of July." Make realistic, measurable goals and write them down.

Limit the number of resolutions you make. It's better to do one thing well than several things poorly (or not at all).

Post your list in a visible place to serve as a reminder and encouragement to yourself. It will also allow other people to see your resolutions and provide support. If you want to keep your resolutions private, record them in a journal.

Enlist the support of your friends and family. If you're lucky, they'll have similar goals and you can work on your resolutions together. Encourage people to be helpful and supportive.

Take action immediately. Make important appointments with a doctor, dietitian or counselor. Sign up for a gym membership or buy any equipment you need.

Practice new behaviors that encourage success. If you want to stop smoking, don't hang out in smoke-filled bars or casinos. If you want to lose weight, don't bring desserts, junk food, candy or ice cream into the house. Limit your exposure to people who are likely to encourage resolution-breaking. There's a reason parolees aren't allowed to hang out with known criminals--they're a bad influence. Surround yourself with good ones.

Set incremental goals and reward yourself for partial successes. If you're working on saving more of your income, for example, reward yourself with a small splurge at each significant step. Each time you squirrel away another $1,000, take yourself to a favorite restaurant or get a massage.

Substitute a good habit for the bad one you want to break. If your goal is to eat less junk food, find a healthy food you love. If you want to spend more time with your family, establish a special time during the week when everyone is together.