Do you want to quit smoking? Training for a marathon? Develop yourself professionally? Finally become self-employed? Ideas for the new year are quickly at hand. But many good intentions are given up after just a few weeks. As a motivational trainer, I know the problem – and the strategies for ongoing and sustainable success.

he mistake is to confuse real goals with mere actions. Ask yourself who you want to be. You wouldn’t have thought of the marathon if there wasn’t a longing associated with it. You want to be fit, efficient and goal-oriented. You want to radiate freshness and attractiveness. Most of all, you want to feel that dynamic self, you want to be like that! And preparing for the marathon is just the way to get there.

Of course, the men and women from the sneaker advertisements are portrayed in an idealized way. And you have no right to the sun always shining when you want to train. Still, your new self could look something like this or something. And above all, feel like it.

You guessed what I’m getting at: Have an attractive vision of what you’re trying to accomplish. Because success begins in the mind. Imagine where you want to be in a year. Focus on that goal.

The best thing to do is to put your ambitions in writing. Of course, if you’re more the visual type, you can make a collage of images and photos. Place your vision in a place where you can look forward to it every day: for example on the desk or on the bathroom mirror.

It helps immensely when a good friend or two knows what you are working towards. On the one hand, they will be happy to support you with advice and action. On the other hand, your resolution becomes a bit more real – people who mean something to you now know about your project. And you don’t want to disappoint them, do you?

Real change takes time. Define realistic sub-goals. If you’re looking for a new job, it could look like this: Talk to your family in January and find out what’s important to you. Work on a strategy with a coach in February and March. Then in April write ten really mature applications. If things go well, interviews will take place in May – if not, the second round will follow in the summer.

It’s good that you’ve planned two weeks of summer vacation in between. Because this is also part of it: conscious breaks and rewards help you to breathe deeply. In this way, you can regularly evaluate your previous approach and gain new motivation.

One of the most important lessons I teach my clients as a coach is: be error-friendly. You can already be proud that you have decided to step into the unknown. It’s okay if minor failures thwart your plans and some obstacles present you with completely new questions. Take moments like this as an opportunity to look at the whole thing from a different perspective and to develop new ideas for your project.

If you follow your plan, you will soon see success. Don’t let up until you reach all the milestones. But then you should give yourself a pat on the back and enjoy what you have built up – even if everything doesn’t work out. As long as you keep at it, you’ll be proud at the end of the year.

Take your time to savor the new attitude towards life. And take your time to think about what comes next. You can use your experience to achieve further goals: develop visions, formulate goals, create commitment, plan realistically. You decide when to continue – you don’t have to wait until the New Year!