The New Year is the time most of us set goals. The temporal landmark helps us wipe the slate clean from the previous year and look forward to realizing our best selves.

The start of the year also brings natural stress along with it. The holidays are over; it’s back to work and in many locations, months more of cold and dark days. Add to the mix the pressure of achieving a significant goal, and you may feel overwhelmed. So, how do you stay on target?

Pick a goal that is personally meaningful: If your New Year’s resolution is driven by what you think you should do rather than what you want, it’s likely you won’t achieve it. On the other hand, if the goal you pick has intrinsic value, you are much more likely to follow through. Think about what you want to accomplish and leave the “I should” behind.

Put your strengths to work: Research has shown that people who leverage their strengths to achieve their goals are more likely to follow-through. Make a list of things you are good at that energize you. How can you use one or more of these strengths in service of your goal? If you’re not sure of your strengths, take the free Values in Action (VIA) survey to help you identify them.

Recognize that willpower ebbs and flows: According to psychology professor, Michael Inzlicht, willpower ebbs and flows like emotions. Instead of beating yourself up for eating a piece of cake or checking Facebook instead of working on a project you committed to, realize that your flagging willpower is temporary and ride out the doldrums.

Create a plan: A goal without a plan for reaching it is like having a destination without directions. You can’t get there from here. To make a goal more achievable, break it into smaller steps that you can measure as you go along. Be sure to celebrate your accomplishments along the way.

Stress like other emotions is fleeting, and sometimes you have to cut yourself a break when it’s too much. A mindfulness practice or a long walk might be what you need at that moment. Reaching a goal, however, is a great way to mitigate stress. Seeing that you can accomplish something challenging is empowering and motivating. Try the steps above to set you in the right direction.

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