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How to make, and reach, 2007 goals

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So, New Year's weekender, we hear that you boldly resolved to make some personal changes for 2007.

Why not? Resolutionmaking is one of those exercises that lets you answer to yourself. No one understands you as you do. And you can always let yourself slide; wait until next year. (As you said last year?)

Somewhere between 45 percent and two-thirds of well-intentioned adult Americans make some form of New Year's resolutions, according to reports. By the end of six months more than half have lost the handle, says one from the University of Scranton in Philadelphia.

"Change is hard," says Jeff Reese, professor of psychology at Abilene Christian University in Texas and coauthor, with Robert McKelvain, of the forthcoming book "How to Keep Your New Year's Resolutions."

Other resolvers notch achievements. At this time of year those people are simply – not smugly, we hope – buckling in for another round of betterment as the old temporal odometer cycles past 1/1 again.

"People love new beginnings," says Professor Reese, "we love second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances. The thing that we're not very good about is, once we 'fall off the wagon,' what do we do then?"

What we should not do, he says: Write off our resolutions and slink away after a lapse. It's important to anticipate slips, says Reese, and work through them. Also important: How you make them. We know it's after Jan. 1, but this first week represents a grace period, an opportunity to roll out what you might call Resolutions 2.0.

One point many experts make: Be specific. In her online quiz, author M.J. Ryan ("This Year I Will...") asks "[W]hat exactly does 'be a better friend' mean, anyway?"

Reese's chief piece of advice: "Understand your motivation for wanting to set a goal," he says. "People really stumble when they don't have a goal that's intrinsically meaningful to them." He says making a resolution while in a "precontemplative state" – without having really bought into the idea – can be a formula for failure.

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