MAKING NEW YEAR'S resolutions can be an effective way of concentrating the mind and setting new goals to achieve. In fact, doing just that has become a familiar annual routine for perhaps hundreds of millions of people. But how many of those people starting the year with such good intentions actually stick to their resolutions, and for how long? Although a failure to stay the course is usually just shrugged off, in certain cases there can be serious repercussions, especially if substantial time and effort have been invested. It can lead to a lingering feeling of defeat or a loss of self-confidence, which can severely affect people's day-to-day performance and their chances of future success. Therefore, it pays to think carefully about what we really want and how we intend to achieve it. A New Year's resolution is generally the expression of a strong wish or desire that, we feel sure, will bring noticeable improvement if successfully accomplished. It is best to concentrate on the main thing you have decided to do and not link it to all sorts of conditions. For example, if your resolution is to stop smoking, set a method and a timetable. Do not give yourself a series of exceptions by saying it will be OK to have a cigarette when you are with friends. Also, examine your own motives and understand what the contemplated changes will involve. There is no point in kidding yourself, so plan ahead realistically and recognise your strengths and weaknesses. One sure-fire recipe for failure is to make resolutions at the last minute or as a reaction to something bothering you at the time, according to Elizabeth Miller and Alan Marlatt, who conducted related research at the University of Washington. It is preferable to frame each resolution in positive terms, which lead to the right mindset. Thus, something like 'I will only eat healthy food and cut out sugar' works better than 'I will not eat chocolate again'. Put the resolution down in writing, keep it somewhere visible and devise a system to remind you why you decided on this course of action. Some people find the support of friends and loved ones invaluable, while others prefer to keep their efforts to themselves. Decide what is best for you. If seeking support, be sure to select people who will really help. Certain resolutions require a long-lasting commitment. For these, break the process down into smaller, easily achievable steps and give yourself rewards for reaching defined milestones. Keep a diary to record your successes, and the problems you overcame along the way. Finally, do not give up. Even if your resolution this New Year is ultimately not life-changing, stick to it. Remember that perseverance is an important part of every success story. The promise to keep a promise More than 70 per cent of executives planned to make a job-related New Year's resolution for this year, according to a global executive quiz by Korn/Ferry International. Respondents from nearly 60 countries, representing a wide spectrum of industries and functional areas, participated in the quiz between November and December last year.