Keeping a New Year's resolution doesn't need to be a challenge. In fact, E.J. Masicampo, assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University, says that keeping a New Year's resolution can be as simple as following several easy steps.

"We roll our eyes at people’s resolutions because we often see them fail," Masicampo said. "But research shows that small changes in how people think about and manage their goals can make all the difference."

Masicampo's steps include:

  • Commit to a specific plan— Where and when are you going to do what you resolve to do? Committing to a specific plan not only makes the goal more likely to be achieved, it also gets it off your mind so you can accomplish other things.
  • Picture yourself carrying out your plan— Sports research shows that imagined practice is almost as good as physical practice for training new skills and habits. Keeping resolutions is also about creating new habits. When you imagine carrying out the specific plans that you set, you’re more likely to carry them out with ease.
  • Monitor your progress— One of the simplest things you can do to meet your standards is to keep track of how well you’re doing. If you’re dieting, weigh yourself or record your caloric intake daily. Signs of failure will energize you to change. Signs of success will encourage you to keep on going.
  • Kill two birds with one stone— Goals often compete and interfere with one another, but sometimes you can combine them. For example, is your resolution competing with your desire to socialize? Turn your resolution-related activities into social activities. This will save you from having to sacrifice one goal for another.
  • Connect with someone who shares your goal— Goals are contagious. If someone close to you is pursuing a goal, you’ll be more likely to pursue it, too.
  • Create a routine and stick to it— Every time you engage in a behavior, you make it easier to re-enact it. Do a goal-related activity at the same time and in the same place every day or week, and eventually the behavior will become habit.
Follow David Mielach on Twitter @D_M89 or BusinessNewsDaily @bndarticles. This story was originally written for BusinessNewsDaily and is republished with permission here. Copyright 2012