The beginning of the year seems to be a popular time for pondering potential. It is right about now that many people make their annual New Year’s resolutions. Of course, the majority of those resolutions only last for a few days or a few weeks. Despite the best intentions to make changes at the onset of a new year, we often fail to follow through on most of the things we identified that we wanted to alter.

I could have approached this subject from a negative angle and titled this article, “Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail.” That might have grabbed the attention of more people. But the power of focus applies to our attempts to make any change at any time of year.

The fact is that change, whether large or small, is very difficult. Nearly two-thirds of the population have personality styles that make it extremely difficult to change since they are wired to enjoy a predictable and repetitive environment. Even those of us who are behaviorally more inclined to want change will often struggle with change because change is difficult. This is especially true of any change that affects our daily habits and routines.

Therefore, if you want to successfully make changes in your life, focus is required. This focus needs to address two areas:

  1. Limiting the number of changes (or resolutions) that you want to implement.
  2. Once you have decided what you want to change, focusing on how to make the change.

If you want to be successful at making changes in your life, I recommend you focus on one or two areas and certainly no more than three. The reality is that the fewer changes you try to implement, the more likely you are to be successful.

If you choose to focus on only one change in your life at a time, your chances for success increase exponentially. In fact, if you want to make three to four changes this year, I suggest you try to tackle one change each quarter instead of trying to make multiple changes at the same time. Focusing all of your efforts on one change at a time will greatly increase your chances for success.

What I am suggesting is that you go back to your list of New Year’s resolutions and pick one resolution that you want to focus on in the first quarter. Put this on your to-do list for January and put the other resolutions, to a maximum of three, on your task list for the first month of each quarter for the rest of 2016.

Once you have identified the one priority change you want to make, or thing you want to do, in the first quarter, it is time to start to list the process and the things you need to do to successfully make the change. For example, two very common New Year’s resolution would be to go on a diet or to start exercising more.

Let’s use the example of exercising more as an example of making a list of what you need in order to be successful at achieving the goal you have set.

Here is a set of questions you might use to develop a detailed plan for the goal of more exercise.

  1. Be very specific in your goal. Define what success would be in specific terms. Is your goal to exercise a certain number of times per week? Or to achieve a certain weight or body fat number? Try to identify ways to measure your progress and to be able to know when you have achieved your goal.
  2. Where are you going to exercise? At home or at an exercise facility?
  3. What type of exercise are you going to do?
  4. Do you need to purchase equipment or to join a facility?
  5. Are you going to direct yourself or do you need a trainer or a coach?
  6. What changes do you need to make in your schedule to provide the time you need to achieve your goal?
  7. Can your goal be defined as a series of progressive steps? Establishing a number of measurable success levels along the way can help you stay motivated toward your goal.

Whether it is successfully implementing a New Year’s resolution or making changes in your life at any time, this type of process will help you be successful. Of all the suggestions in this article, I believe that the most important one is to work on one change at a time. The value of looking back in March or April at the progress that you made in the first quarter on one resolution will be a strong motivation to attack the second goal on your list with vigor and energy when the beauty of spring starts to shine on your life.