Rather than focus on strict and confining New Year’s resolutions, people should focus on realistic and relevant actions to actually improve their lives, according to Jennifer Wegman, health and wellness studies lecturer at Binghamton University, State University of New York.

“The expectation to set New Year’s resolutions in our society is so strong that many people feel guilty if they don’t set extravagant goals,” said Wegmann. “History has shown us just how unsuccessful our resolution aspirations are. Yet, we continue to let history repeat itself.

“It’s time to let go of the yearly obligation to make big, sometimes unrealistic, changes; it’s time for a mindset shift. We need to move away from the idea that the only way to create change in our lives is by creating strict and confining rules to follow. This year, let’s focus on realistic and relevant actions we can engage in to improve our lives.”

Here are some tips to help us develop lasting change in our lives:

  1. Reevaluate and reaffirm your values - our values are like our life’s compass. They dictate the direction we travel. Ask yourself: are your values aligned with your actions? If not, why and what changes do you need to make sure your values and behaviors are on the same page?
  2. Stop comparing yourself to others. Your goals and aspirations for change need to be personal and individualized. All too often, people set unrealistic personal expectations based on other people’s lives and our perceptions of their health and success.
  3. Focus on one change at a time. Trying to tackle several changes at once spreads your willpower and personal resources thin and is the best recipe for failure. Choose one behavior to focus on. Streamlining your goals will allow you to place the necessary time and energy needed for successful change.
  4. Manage your stress. Stress will derail your best efforts for change because we tend to let go of our self-care when our stress gets too high.