New Year’s Day is a time to reflect. Events in the past year are beginning to fade (or are already forgotten), and the great unknowns of the future loom into the foreground.

Janus, the mythological Roman god for whom January was named, was depicted with two faces, one looking forward and one backward. Wouldn’t that be a great gift to have? He was also known as the god of portals, apt for the month on the edge of the old and new years.

New Year’s Day is the traditional time to make life-changing resolutions, even when most won’t last more than a few hours or days. Resolutions tend to be wise and healthy “starts” or “stops” that truly would be positive, but most times we don’t have the determination and perseverance to carry it through. How many times have you resolved to lose weight…stop smoking…save money…get organized…volunteer more (or less)…read more…get a new job…exercise…write a novel? The list is endless and, for the most part, unachievable.

Setting a reachable goal is the first step toward attaining it. Breaking a change into small steps will improve the chances of success. Specific actions tend to endure longer than general statements and being accountable to another, whether spouse, sibling or friend, increases the likelihood of success. “I resolve to walk 30 minutes every other day, with my friend Susie.” “I resolve to read a chapter a day of ‘War and Peace,’ beginning today, and send a synopsis to my best friend.” These goals sound reachable.

Skipping a day or eating chocolate cake when you’re losing weight is often the excuse for breaking a resolution. “See? I just can’t stick to a diet.” Better to say, “I messed up, but that’s not what I want to do. I’ll just do an extra set of sit-ups and behave better tomorrow.”

The good feelings from reaching a goal can become addictive. When goals are unrealistic, there’s no reward to keep you going. That is why so many New Year’s resolutions get tossed out: The person making them is carried away by dreams, but forgets reality. Like Janus, look back with a critical eye, evaluate attitudes and behaviors as well as events. Then, before you project too far into the future, consider how you have improved in the last year. After that, build reasonable, attainable resolutions within your ability.

As for me, I’ll face 2018 with a positive attitude. I can make a difference in my own life and the lives of others.