(CBS) – Many of us will make New Year’s resolutions to be better, healthier, more productive people over the next few weeks. Many of us will have broken these resolutions by, oh, January 12th. Is that because we lack willpower? Perhaps. But it may also be because we set ourselves up for failure by aiming too high and focusing on what we can’t do — instead of what we can do. Here are three rules to increase your odds of actually making changes you can live with.

1. Focus.
Choose one major goal and go all in. Losing weight, quitting smoking or getting out of debt are all great resolutions, but hopefully you’ll live a long enough life that you needn’t tackle them all at once. Think of it this way: if you quit smoking this year and lose 10 pounds next year, you’ll be much better off two years from now than if you try both simultaneously, and fail.

2. Come up with specific, positive actions that will aid your goal.
For instance, if you want to lose weight, you could resolve to eat protein at breakfast (or eat breakfast, if you’re currently not doing that), eat a serving of vegetables at lunch, and cook a healthy dish on Sunday that you can serve as leftovers two times a week, so you’re not tempted to spring for take-out. It’s not that skipping dessert isn’t a good goal, it’s just that it’s hard to live life in the negative. Eating fruit for dessert or eating yogurt for dessert is much more positive and fun, and will make you feel like you’re doing something, rather than dwelling on what you’re not allowed to eat.

3. Chart your progress.
Humans are simple creatures. We all like our gold stars. So keep track of the all the actions you’ve aimed to do and give yourself a check mark whenever you do one of the actions you’ve prescribed. Is that corny? Sure. But it’s more or less what Ben Franklin did to try to stick with his goals, and he turned out all right.

What resolution (just one!) do you intend to make this year?
Respond below:

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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