It almost seems cliché to talk about making major life changes at the brink of a new year. Yet, year after year, we jot down ways we would ideally prefer to live our lives and commit ourselves to making these sometimes hasty and rash decisions in time for the clock to strike 12. While many of us begin the new year with a bang, hitting the gym every day, eating better, drinking less, saving more money rather than spending it, volunteering more in the community, by week four, the novelty of making such lofty commitments wears off and most of us begin to find reasons to abandon them. So the question is, really: Why do we continue to make such resolutions?

There is something bittersweet about the new year. For some, the past year may have been a tough one, difficult at best. Embarking upon a new year brings a feeling of elation — that all the troubles experienced during the past year will be just that, past, and with our resolutions, the new year will bring good luck and success. For others, the new year calendar date is just a marker for a goal — a marker that is celebrated around the world and easily identified. Many will make promises to themselves to have a better, more fruitful year, even if the year that just passed was a good one. No matter where one sits on the spectrum of new year’s resolutions, making commitments to improve our lives and the lives of those around us is a worthy effort.

For those who are committed to making 2011 a better year, here are some ideas:

When you make your new year’s resolutions, take a look at the patterns of your past. If you have unsuccessfully tried making changes, then read about people who have made similar changes and find ways to apply their methods to ensure success. For example, if you want to quit drinking, read about Sarah Silverman, Elton John, Anthony Kiedis, etc. — all have been successful on their road to recovery. Steer clear of the Charlie Sheens and Lindsey Lohans of the world.

It’s easier to stick to your commitments with a friend than to go it alone. Though many have been successful in making life changes by their own sheer will power, having a friend to talk to, someone who is experiencing the same ups and downs, will make it easier to stay on track. Just be certain the friend you choose is just as committed as you are.

Understand long-term commitment. While it is easy to make a plan and stick to it with gusto for a few weeks, even a few months, failing in the long term could offset making future commitments to bettering your life.

Be realistic. When you set a goal, make it as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. If you set reasonable goals, the possibility of achieving them and making more is highly likely. For instance, instead of committing to dropping 30 pounds, resolve to lose three. Once you have achieved that, three more won’t be so hard to lose.

Don’t get down on yourself if you are unsuccessful. Just because you didn’t achieve your “new year’s” resolutions, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t set other goals throughout the year. New year’s goals come with high expectations, but setting small goals year round could prove to be better in the long run.

No matter what you resolve to do in 2011, be sure to make a solid plan that will help you accomplish your goals.