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What We're Resolving This Year and How We'll Get It Done

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- This week the curtain lifts on 2014, and for millions of Americans that means a blank slate and a chance to make some positive changes in their lives.

While that's commendable, what changes, exactly, will people be targeting after New Year's Day?

BMO Harris Financial Advisors, a Chicago money management firm, has released a study detailing the types of New Year's resolutions Americans will be making.

All in all, 68% of U.S. adults say they will be making a New Year's resolution before the clock strikes midnight tonight.

Of those Americans, the resolution breakdown looks like this (with many survey respondents telling BMO Harris they are focusing on multiple resolutions): Getting in physical shape is the most common resolution (39% chose it); improving personal finances (28%); working on their emotional health (27%); improving their romantic life (16%); and getting ahead in their career (16%).

The key to achieving or meeting your New Year's resolutions is to have a plan, BMO Harris says -- no matter what your goal.

"Your finances have an impact on so many areas of your life, so it's not surprising that they figure so prominently when identifying goals for next year," says Michael Miroballi, president of BMO Harris. "For those considering making New Year's resolutions involving dollars and cents, the chances of actually achieving your financial goals increase significantly if you take the time to create a financial plan. For example, if you want to get in shape or lose weight, you need to create a plan that will most likely include an exercise schedule and a diet regime. The same holds true for your financial objectives -- it all starts with a plan."

But it's not all about a plan. You also need to bring these attributes to the table to meet your resolutions next year:

Take small steps. You may know the old saying, "Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, life's a cinch." That's good advice with New Year's resolutions. For example, if your goal is to save money, aim for a manageable amount you can break down month to month. Psychologically, it's easier to save an extra $250 per month than it is to save an extra $3,000 for the year.

Take regular steps. When you're making big changes in your life -- especially your financial life -- steady, forward progress is the goal. If you're committed to saving more for your retirement, getting a new job and cutting household spending, focus on those goals one at a time. The problem with resolutions is that they can be overwhelming if you have too much on your plate.

Expect setbacks. Nobody is perfect, and you can fully expect to make mistakes along the way with your New Year's resolution campaign. If you busted the monthly household budget by overspending at the mall or grocery store, take a step back, evaluate what you did and correct the behavior. (For example, try taking only cash to the mall or grocery store and leaving the credit card at home.)

Also, don't forget to ask for help. A savvy family member or a professional financial adviser, fitness instructor or career mentor can step in and give you an unbiased outlook on your resolutions and the progress you're making in meeting those goals.

With more than two-thirds of Americans committed to a New Year's resolution, taking the steps needed to launch and achieve those goals is paramount. Just go slow, measure your progress and ask for help if you need it.

With most resolutions, chances are you'll need all the help you can get.

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