It's sad but true for most of us that New Year's resolutions don't work.  Our intentions are good, but our ability to set realistic goals and follow through are usually not as good.  People have so much trouble sticking to resolutions that many mental health professionals advice against making them at all.

I see the benefits of making them or not making them.  I don't make them personally. Instead, I set mini-goals that I set monthly or seasonally.  Yet, most people like to make them for the New Year.  It's not a bad idea.  Your motivation is high, which is at least half the battle.  The other half consists of executing them. 

I would say that motivation to make changes runs high for many of us right now.  Jobs are still scarce, houses are still undergoing foreclosure, and unhappily married couples are staying together because they can't afford to split. 

 It's a great time to make resolutions such as reign in spending or redo your resume. My best advice for success is:

  • Choose one or two goals that are do-able and important to you
  • Make a list of how and why you might sabotage yourself
  • Aim to catch yourself slipping back into old habits
  • Don't beat yourself up if you do fall off the wagon
  • Recruit friends and family to help
  • Develop a reward system such as putting money in the bank every time you do well.

I also recommend that you maintain a private conversation with yourself so you can activate and strengthen your inner resolve.  One of the exercises I teach my clients is the Angel on the Right Shoulder, Devil on the Left Shoulder.  I don't imply that there are any devils or angels, but my clients understand that I use these terms as popular shorthand for the conversations we all have with ourselves whenever we are battling positive and negative feelings and internal messages. 

So, to keep yourself on the track of making changes, use this exercise whenever you find yourself faltering.  I've given you some typical examples below.  Invent your own.

1. Devil: You made dumb decisions-spent too much, didn't budget, had blinders on, played it safe, passed up a decent relationship and didn't trust that inner voice.

Angel: So what. At least my eyes are open now. I won't close smart doors this time. I refuse to be powerless. I'll think first, get help and then act. Life is filled with trial and error. That's how we all learn.

2. Devil: Regret stays forever and can't be gotten over.

Angel: Well, maybe, but I can weaken their power. Besides, focusing on getting over regrets is wrongheaded. Instead, I'm going to learn from my past. Few of us catch our mistakes all the time. I'm not falling for "should and ought." Today is a new day. And who knows-I may not have arrived at this new place of resolve if I hadn't had the experiences I did. So there.

3. Devil: Yeah, I got news for you. You closed some doors.

Angel: So what? Even good decisions close other doors. And who says every door is closed now? All lives include regret-or else you haven't lived. Hah-take that.

4. Devil: Time is running out.

Angel: And that's why I'm acting now. I'm going to keep in mind my good qualities, hopes, strengths and accomplishments of all sizes. And then I'm moving forward-no matter how scary and difficult.

5. Devil: I get dibs the last act, though.

Angel: No you don't. I do. My tombstone is NOT going to say "I Quit."

Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, Ed.D., MSS is a noted psychologist and lic.clinical social worker, specializing in relationships. For her book about women and love, she welcomes women to take her 17-20 minute online research survey at