As the new year approaches, many people will be looking to lose weight, eat healthier, quit smoking or make some other kind of resolution. Unfortunately for many, it's often difficult to follow through on their resolutions. All the more reason one expert is encouraging people to set realistic, attainable goals.  

New Year's resolutions (Christy Thompson, ThinkStock)

First, people who are planning to make a resolution need to take them seriously.

"Use it as a time of reflection. Look at where you are and where you really want to go in the coming year," said Dr. Steven Tobias, director of the Center for Child and Family Development in Morristown.  "It's also important to set very specific and measurable goals. For example, if you really want to lose weight, set up a schedule for yourself. Plan to lose a certain number of pounds by a specific date.  Then come up with a specific plan as to how you're going to accomplish it."

Tobias also recommends that you share your goals publicly.

"The who, what, where when and how is important - especially the who. When you have social support for something, it's going to help you do it. Look for friends and family to help you. When you share your goals, it hold you more accountable to it because people don't want to disappoint other people," Tobias said.

The trick is to break down the resolution. If you have a lofty goal, define what it means and set specific markers with a timeline for how you're going to accomplish it.

"If you break it down into manageable units that can be accomplished one step at a time, you're more likely to be successful," Tobias said.

It is completely normal to get distracted and those distractions often prevent people from following through on their intentions.

"Put your plans on the calendar and schedule what you're going to do and when you're going to do it. It's a way of reminding you. If the goals are in your head, they're easier to forget.  If you have them written down, they're easier to follow through on," Tobias said.

If you fail, it is important to forgive yourself and try again. "We all make mistakes and we forget things. It's part of being human. But, if you have a resolution and then forget by March, it's ok to start it in March.  Any time is a good time.  Don't beat yourself up and feel guilty.  Forgive yourself and give yourself another chance," he said.