(NEW YORK) — When the gym becomes less crowded, the smoke breaks more frequent and dessert once again takes its place at the table, it becomes clear: New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside.
“I think the problem people have is that they often set pretty unrealistic goals,” says Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and the author of Still Procrastinating? The No Regrets Guide to Getting It Done.
In order to make 2013 a transformative year, Ferrari recommends people be realistic and focus on small wins and successes.
“We need to have small interim goals rather than end goals,” he says. “I don’t think we reward the early bird anymore. We punish people if they don’t do things but we don’t reward them if they meet their goal.”
Losing weight — a resolution for millions of people each year — can become more attainable if people start small, Ferrari says.
“You can’t lose 40 pounds in four weeks, but you can lose 4 pounds in four weeks,” he says.
Giving up cigarettes, another resolution that is often met with discouragement and procrastination, can become easier, Ferrari says, when small milestones are celebrated and rewarded.
“If you know you have a reward at the end, you’re more likely to do something. You can say, ‘Great, I have earned it now. I’ve been wanting to go to this movie, buy that pair of shoes,'” he says.
And if the resolutions are going to stick this year, Ferrari recommends everyone find a friend or partner to hold them accountable.
“Create a party atmosphere. Have everybody come with two or three resolutions written on a piece of paper. Mix it up and then have a grab bag and share your goals,” he says. “Write it publicly on your Facebook.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio