It's a brand new year and hopefully that means you're looking at how to improve. You're energized about getting back into the grind and being a better you.

But, what can happen to that energy and desire for self improvement? It fades...and your self-improvement gets pushed back by the immediate demands of your work.

Unfortunately, all the ambition we have entering a new year can pretty easily regress if it isn't kept top of mind. Our brain works in patterns and habits and the easier you can make it for your brain to recall something, the more efficient it is in doing so.

Think about the complex tasks that are easy for you...chances are you have a pattern of doing those tasks that make you more efficient. The same goes for improving yourself--you have to make it a habit.

Here's six habits you can develop to transform yourself:

  1. Think positively: There's a reason why this is number one and that's because it is so critical. Our brains respond much better to positive emotions and thoughts than negative thoughts. There are enough potential negative thoughts or actions that can reach their way into your day, so don't allow yourself to add fuel to that negative fire. Provide positive reinforcement to yourself on what you did well. Simple Task: Create a Positivity Journal and write one thing every day.
  2. Connect with others: We only know so much about ourselves without outside information. You may think you are acting in a certain highly effective way, but others could see a different picture. Without seeking ideas or input from others, you'll never know what you could be missing. Plus, the brain seeks collaboration and reinforcement. Simple Task: Prepare a list of questions like, "What could I have improved upon during this project/meeting/initiative?"
  3. Reflect: After you've made a decision or have seen the consequences of a particular action, take time to reflect on what that meant. This can be done privately or within a group. My company is big on reflections, and more often than not it is both a great pulse check on where people are and a way to spur next steps and keep the energy moving forward. Simple Task: Deliberately end significant recurring meetings five minutes early and use that time for a reflection (either personal or with the group).
  4. Set Small Goals: Whether at work or in life, we respond to milestones and markers, and the importance of setting big, audacious goals is critical to giving yourself something to ultimately shoot for. However, you also need to know what needs to be done to reach the big stuff (and how your own unique brain responds to goals). That's where small goals come into play. You're not going to reach that year-long sales goal without setting weekly call numbers and setting up killer closing decks. You're not going to lose 25 pounds without putting in daily work at the gym. Those small things are goals too and you can make them happen. Simple Task: Download a productivity app like Trello to make lists that you need to do. For fitness try a product like Fitbit to take goals into the realm of social media and use helpful analytics.
  5. Practice Gratitude: Feeling grateful and saying thank you activates parts of the brain that are critical to both making you feel good as a human being and could make you a better person as whole and a better businessperson. According to researchers from USC, "when the brain feels gratitude, it activates areas responsible for feelings of reward, moral cognition, subjective value judgments, fairness, economic decision-making and self-reference." Simple Task: Commit to writing a thank you note or email to at least one person each day. You can even do this for one person from a business perspective and one person from a personal perspective.
  6. Exercise: This one makes a difference and I can tell you from personal experience. Exercise is the ultimate habit activity. What I mean is that something as challenging as going for a run or doing a workout doesn't necessarily come naturally to us. It's hard and it takes time. But the benefits are tremendous, both for your health and your productivity. Simple Task: Chances are you've tried exercising in the past, and if it hasn't worked, you need to try something different. Try a service like ClassPass, which is an innovative way to go to a plethora of gyms or classes. It will shake up the routine of getting into this habit.

2016 should be an amazing year--especially if you get into the habit of creating good habits.