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How to Make Your Career New Year's Resolutions Stick

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The new year is underway and for many of us, that means our New Year's resolutions are fresh in our minds. New Year's resolutions are often directed toward improving our personal lives - things like quitting smoking, getting in shape, learning a new skill, traveling more or other self-improvement quests.

Personal resolutions are great, and everyone should make them. But given the centrality of work in our daily routines, we would be losing out on a chance to improve this important part of our lives if we didn't make resolutions for our careers as well. Career resolutions will give you a target to aim for as you begin this year and start charting out your plan for professional growth.

Everyone's career resolutions are different, but the one thing we all have in common is that we all sometimes struggle to make new habits stick. Here are some tips to help you achieve your career New Year's resolutions.

Start small

It's great to be ambitious and set lofty goals - these are the kinds of things that make us push ourselves to be better at what we do. But as the Harvard Business Review explained, trying to achieve big goals, or too many goals, in too short a timeframe has a way of leading us to achieve nothing. It's too easy to get overwhelmed and not know where to start when you have too much on your plate.

That's why the HBR recommends that you start small when you make your career New Year's resolution. Pick one or two key things in your career that you want to change and stick to them. Habits and routines are very difficult to change and if you stretch yourself too thin, you'll end up expending a lot of mental energy just to end up spinning your tires.

Set specific, measurable goals

In addition to making your goals achievable, you should also make them as specific and measurable as possible. People who make their resolutions too vague are much more likely to fail than people who pick a goal and set a predefined level that would allow them to determine if they were successful or not, Time wrote.

An example of a specific, measurable goal would be something like, "I will reach out to 10 new people in my industry and pick their brain about new opportunities in the field." With this kind of goal, you know exactly what success looks like because it's quantifiable: Once you've met with 10 people and learned from them, you've achieved what you set out to do.

Make 2015 your best year yet by sticking to your career New Year's resolution.

Don't only focus on your weaknesses

It's only natural that we gear our career resolutions toward improving our weaknesses. This is great, but you shouldn't only work on shoring up your professional blind spots. Take some time to reflect on what you've done well in the past and resolve to either continue doing that or find a way to make your strengths shine even more.

Expect setbacks and know how you'll handle them

"Success is not an all or nothing proposition."

Anyone who has ever tried to change a habit knows that things don't always go smoothly. Some days, we skip a workout or fail to practice that new skill we're learning. Even though we know these setbacks are inevitable, they can still take us off the path we've set for ourselves.

Forbes explained that people who are successful in keeping their New Year's resolutions are able to move past the occasional stumbles by understanding that success is not an all or nothing proposition. Always remember that setbacks are temporary - you can always get back on track and continue your journey.

Get a little help from your friends

Time looked at research from Dominican University of California psychology professor Gail Matthews and found that people who had a friend share in their goals were 33 percent more successful than those who tried to go it alone.

Find a friend or colleague who you can partner with to keep each other accountable for reaching the goals you've both set. By sticking together, both you and your partner can maximize the chances of success.