Edith L. has always struggled with weight gain, but the one thing she could always rely on to keep her weight in check is exercise. She resolved that in order to keep motivated and make sure she kept to her plan, she would join a new gym near by. Two years later, she is even heavier and laments that she spent $3,600 in membership fees without setting foot in the facility.

Edith, of course, is not alone. I n an online survey our firm conducted, we found that half of the people who made serious resolutions gave up on their goals within thirty days. By three months, three out of four had thrown in the towel. The most shocking discovery of the study was that the cycle of failure happens year after year, in fact, 77 percent report having made the exact same resolution for more than five years-without success!

Why do so many struggle so hard to achieve their goals and ultimately fail? One of the most important factors in the success or failure of our efforts to change our behavior and improve our lives has to do with the friends we keep.

Consider the case of Latisha. She grew up on the east side of Detroit surrounded by gangs, drug dealers and violence. Her older sister was pregnant at fifteen. Latisha had horrible grades while attending a school where less than half the students graduate.

She looked at the kids a few years older than herself and saw despair and failure. She wanted more. Latisha joined the Air Force and they helped her enroll in a summer trial program at Eastern Michigan University. With a lot of support and against all odds, she excelled.

Today, Latisha is finishing a Master’s Degree in Human Resources, is mentored by executives at Comerica Bank and has jumpstarted her career. What is the key to Latisha’s phenomenal success?

In her words, “In order to be successful, I knew I had to create a personal network filled with successful people.”

According to our research, Latisha’s instinct to surround herself with active supporters, and distance herself from those who would hold her back, is exactly what people who are looking to keep resolutions, break bad habits and achieve goals in 2014 should do.

Specifically, people who surround themselves with friends and family who actively encourage and support their efforts to improve are significantly more likely to succeed-up to 38 percent more likely!

But, perhaps even more important than who you include in your network is who you exclude.

So, to keep your 2014 resolutions and find success at changing bad behaviors you’ve likely wanted to conquer for years, I strongly recommend you enact four research-based principles.

1.Take an honest inventory of your friends and accomplices. We are surrounded by people. Some have little or no influence on our efforts to achieve our goals. These are neutral acquaintances. Some people could help us reach our goals. These positive influences are “friends”. Some people in our social environment are “accomplices”. They help us get into trouble. They help us fail to become the person we want to be. Make a list of the people in your life and identify which of these categories most correctly describe the influence they are likely to have on your efforts to succeed.

 2.Surround yourself with friends. Seek out those who are like-minded concerning the improvement you are trying to make. Ask for their support. Tell them what you want them to do. Some you may ask to be cheerleaders who celebrate your success. Some you may ask to join you on your journey where you will encourage each other in your progress. Some, you may ask to hold you accountable for your behavior and coach you in your efforts. Also look for opportunities to turn passive supporters into active supporters. Explain the importance of your goal and ask them to help you succeed.

3.Distance yourself from accomplices. Remove yourself from the influence of those who could cause you to fail. An accomplice could offer an insignificant temptation as she orders dessert when you are trying to stay sugar-free, or an accomplice could be an aggressive adversary that pressures you to give-up your goals. Either one is hurtful to you and could be the cause of your failure. Avoid any situations where their negative behavior or words would make it harder for you to stay true to your plan.

 4.If you are not willing to cut-off an accomplice, convert them. If there is an accomplice who is a family member or a cherished friend and you are unwilling to remove them from your social circle, instead of cutting them off, convert them. Explain to them what you are trying to do and why. Tell them what you would like them to do to help you achieve your goals. Reassure them that you are not asking them to change; you are just asking them to help you change.

Your success in achieving New Year’s resolutions has less to do with your personal willpower and more to do with controlling the sources of influence that push you toward success or failure. The people in your life are often your most important source of influence.

Consider a final example. Reita had been addicted to smoking for twenty years. Her doctor encouraged her to quit smoking. She committed to herself to finally do it. She felt she would get a lot of support at home from her family, but she was worried about work.

Her company had a non-smoking policy in the building. At breaks and lunch she would gather with her good friends under the “smoking tree” to light up and socialize. She knew going to the tree would be a big source of temptation, but was unwilling to write-off her friends.

On her big day she greeted her friends under the tree and made an announcement. She explained that the doctor said she had to quit smoking and asked them to help.

“What can we do?” they asked.

“Don’t ever offer me a smoke and if I ever ask for one, tell me no.”

They all agreed to help her out. And they did!

Reita successfully quit smoking and inspired several of her friends to follow her example. She used the people around her to help her succeed. She turned her biggest barriers to success into her biggest supporters and that made all the difference.

About Ron McMillan

Ron McMillan is the four-time New York Times best-selling co-author of Crucial Conversations, Crucial Accountability, Influencer, and Change Anything. He is also the co-founder of VitalSmarts, an innovator in corporate training and leadership development. VitalSmarts has consulted with more than 300 of the Fortune 500 companies and trained more than one million worldwide. For related content from Ron and his co-authors, please visit <a href="https://www.

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