First resolution: read this article.

Become a mentor? Volunteer more? Reach out to old friends? Get more exercise? Start a business that nets $1 million a month? Some New Year’s resolutions are easier than others – but research shows setting goals definitely makes sense. Research also tells us how to increase the odds that we reach those goals.

As Psychology Today reported last December as many of us were considering our resolutions, few actually succeed at keeping them. The evidence:  In a series of studies, researchers from the University of Scranton followed 200 people who made New Year’s resolutions over a two-year period. Some 77 percent kept their resolutions… for a week. A month out, 64 percent reported success. That figure fell to 50 percent after three months and 46 percent after six months. Only 19 percent said they were successful when researchers followed up two years later.

One problem, as reported in a study published by the American Psychological Association, is something called “false hope syndrome.” According to the study, this cycle of failure “is characterized by unrealistic expectations about the likely speed, amount, ease and consequences of self-change attempts.”

But there is good news 

The study also found that resolution makers were 10 times more likely to have made some kind of positive change after six months, compared to people who wanted to change but did not make a New Year’s resolution. So there you have it: Making a resolution may well be worthwhile. The real question is how to make it stick?

  • Be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. Saying you’re going to exercise more isn’t measurable. Deciding to exercise some way – golf, tennis, bicycling, walking, etc. – three times a week is using the SMART method.

  • Have a reward in mind for when you reach a designated point in your goal plan. It doesn’t have to be when you complete the goal. Pick a certain point and enjoy a reward then.

  • Be realistic with your goals. Recontacting all those old friends in one day is a lot. Slow and steady wins the race.

  • Don’t practice all-or-nothing-ism. A slip doesn’t have to be the end of your resolution. The aforementioned study also noted that 71 percent of people who were successful in their resolutions slipped in the first month – but they persisted.

  • Make it fun if possible. Sitting on an exercise bike can be boring. But using one with a TV may not be so bad. A long walk in the fresh air may be even better.

  • Keep a log. This will help you stay accountable to yourself.

  • Seek support. At Shepherd Living communities, the staff is always available to provide advice, and you will undoubtedly find residents who would love to go for regular walks.