Every new year we set new goals to create life changes that we believe would make our lives better. Most of us don’t make it through the first month. We all know how it feels when we fall off the bandwagon. It doesn’t help our self-confidence or our self-esteem. Deep inside, we all desire to be able to make commitments to positive change and stick with them.

In this article, I give seven proven steps that I believe will help you do just that.

1. SMART goals & trigger goals. Start with a winning aspiration or vision. SMART goals will be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. Your SMART improvement goals need to have something like a number or quantity that can be measured and have dates attached to them for when you will accomplish them. Anything short of that isn’t a good improvement goal. Time-bound goals help you know if you are moving towards your goal.

In addition to just setting goals, set some trigger goals. Trigger goals are small things that when you do will set your mind up and make it easy for you to carry out your goals. These are things that will lower the inertia involved in actually doing your goals. E.g. putting it on your calendar and dressing up in your workout clothes 3 times per week will make it easy for you to actually go and work out.

2. Design your external environment to support your change. E.g. If you are trying to lose weight, buy small plate sizes, have only healthy foods at home (no junk food).

3. Surround yourself with a supportive crowd. This can be a coach, mentor, teacher, other people who are working towards the same change, an accountability partner etc. Having people who have gone through the same thing guide you and cheer you on is incredibly helpful. These people or community could be face-to-face or virtual. An online community can be very helpful.

4.Cell Biology: Understand what happens when you change. What really happens at a cellular level when you are trying to break an old habit and form a new habit? Understand the neuroplasticity of your brain and the new neural pathways that need to be formed. Know that it will take time for them to form and for “grass” to grow on the abandoned highways. Realize how easy it is to revert to the old highways or bad habits under stress.

5. Replacement principle. Instead of trying to break bad habits by avoiding things, replacing them will make it easier to succeed.

6.Anticipate and plan for setbacks or challenges. When you begin to change, difficulties are going to arise. To succeed, don’t wait to be surprised by many of these things. Anticipate and plan for them. When you reduce your calories to lose weight, you are going to be irritable. How are you going to handle that? You are going to feel terrible, how will you handle that? This is true for personal change and for business change or any kind of change. Remember Murphy’s Law – Anything that can go wrong will go wrong – and have a plan to deal with each setback if it happens.

7. Celebrate every step. Don’t wait to the end. Make every step fun.