There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the start of a new year, which is why everyone seems to be making resolutions to make their lives better.

Losing 10 pounds and reading a book a week sound like great goals, but are we really focusing on the things that will make lasting positive change in our lives?

We tracked down six experts and asked them for their best advice on a variety of topics—from career and relationships, to making
a global impact to getting more involved in a church. Here are their suggestions for making 2018 your best year yet.

RELATIONSHIPS

Debra Fileta is a licensed professional counselor and speaker, Fileta is the author of the books True Love Dates and Choosing Marriage: The Hardest and Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Do.

Q: What’s one thing every healthy couple should do on a daily basis?
A: Communication is the lifeline of a relationship. Once you stop talking, you start moving backward in your marriage.

In a recent survey I took of over 1,000 married people, the majority said they spend only 15-30 minutes per week in quality conversation with their spouse. I find that statistic concerning and a reflection of the struggles I’m seeing in marriages all over the country.

With our demanding schedules, time can quickly
slip away, so couples need to make it a priority to set aside
a few minutes per day—at the very minimum—to connect and converse in a meaningful way.

Q: What’s the best way to resolve conflicts that arise in a relationship?
A: What makes a marriage healthy isn’t a lack of conflict but rather, how conflict is resolved. There are so many techniques a counselor can offer a couple for resolving conflict in a healthy way, but let’s hone in on God’s Word (James 1:19) for three really simple but important steps: Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

If we could begin applying that communication model to our conflict, we’d all be better for it in the end.

Q: When does a couple know that it’s time to go to counseling?
A: Most couples actually begin the process of counseling far too late. They start counseling after something really harmful happens in their marriage, but we need to start thinking proactively about counseling.

Couples need to be looking for “patterns” of behavior regarding how they interact in their relationship and how they feel toward their spouse. Those patterns of interaction and emotion are either going to be mostly positive or negative.

If a couple finds themselves caught in a continual cycle
of negative behaviors and responses toward one another (isolating, yelling, withdrawing, avoiding, misunderstanding, passive-aggression, etc.), and conflict continues to get pushed under the rug, rather than actually dealt with, then I would say it’s time to seek the help of a professional counselor to help you identify and then break those patterns of interaction before it’s too late.

CAREER

Jeff Goins is the best-selling author of five books including The Art of Work and Real Artists Don’t Starve. He is also a speaker, entrepreneur and blogger at goinswriter.com.

Q: What’s the best way to actually get noticed for a promotion or leadership role this year?

A: Telling your boss you need to pay off credit card bills or you simply feel like you deserve more money isn’t the right way. Paying extra attention to the things your employer cares about and trying to improve those things is a pretty good place to start.

If you do not only what is required but also a little something extra, you will make it very easy for your boss to give you that promotion.

Q: How do you know if it’s time for a job change?

A: A quick, easy way to know it’s time to jump is to talk to your most cautious friend. We all have one really kind friend who just agrees with whatever we say. Instead, find the cautious friend who wants you to go slow and be careful. Get feedback from them. When even they tell you it’s time to go, it’s time.

IMPACT

Jeremy Courtney is the founder of relief organization Preemptive Love Coalition, which serves people in Iraq and Syria. He’s also the author of the book, Preemptive Love.

Q: What’s the best way for someone to get involved with an organization working on a cause they’re passionate about?
A: Everyone wants to go “to the field”—whatever that means in the context of what you care about. “I want to sit in the tents with refugees in Iraq! I want to rescue girls from trafficking in Bangkok!” That stuff is usually reserved for the highly trained insiders. Raise your hand to clean out the warehouse. Write thank you cards to donors. You might be worth hundreds of dollars an hour as a designer, editor, coder, etc. But if it’s about figuring out how to get involved, consider offering your high- value skills for free—and be honest: “I’m just trying to add value and get my foot in the door.”

Q: If someone doesn’t have a lot of money or extra time, how can they make a difference?
A: It’s easy to buy into the myth that we have to have “a lot” (whatever that is), in order to make a difference. If everyone said, “My part is so small, I’ll just stay home,” the whole thing falls apart.

There are only a few people out there giving million- dollar gifts. The rest is up to the rest of us. The same is true with time. Only a few people volunteer a majority of their time—the rest of us write thank you cards or serve a meal or hold a hand at someone’s bedside as we can. That makes a difference, in that moment. Period.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH

Carlos Whittaker is the author of Kill the Spider: Getting Rid of What’s Really Holding You Back.

Q: What’s one spiritual practice Christians should do every day?

A: This is going to sound so elementary, but prayer is the one spiritual practice we should be practicing every day. I don’t know when it happened, but at some point “prayer” became us giving a speech to God. That is not the type of prayer I’m talking about. I’m talking about conversational prayer. Talking to God and Him talking back.

This sort of prayer is meant to be normal. And this sort of prayer is the type of prayer that literally changes everything in your life … This is the sort of spiritual practice that turned my relationship with God upside down in the most beautiful way possible.

HEALTH

Angela Davis is a Nike- sponsored athlete, the founder of Urban Fitness 911, a former member of the USA Track and Field Team and renowned SoulCycle instructor whose students include Usher, JAY-Z, Chris Paul and others.

Q: What’s an easy thing someone can do to start to get in shape (even if they don’t like working out)?
A: Walk around the block. Increase the distance of the walk over time, then a walk can turn into a jog. A jog can turn into a run.

Do a circuit of push-ups, sit-ups and squats when you wake up or before you go to bed. Increase the number of reps and sets over time.

Q: Is it worth it to invest in a fitness tracker this year?
A: The motive and incentive to achieve more than you did the time before—that in itself is a reason to have one.

Q: What’s the easiest way to start eating healthier without starting a fad diet?
A: Drink a lot of water and make sure you are eating lots of fruits and veggies every single day. Try to eat five small meals a day, instead of three large ones.

Q: What’s the best way to stay motivated to stick to your fitness goals?
A: Get an accountability partner. Be willing to hold yourself accountable if that partner is unavailable.

My mother gave me a definition of accountability that I love: “Account to your own ability.” Begin to visualize the change you’d like to see and in every workout, focus on that vision.

CHURCH

Ashlee Eiland is a motivational speaker, content producer and minister at Willow Creek Church Chicago, the nation’s fourth- largest church. She teaches and works in engaging the local community there.

Q: What should someone do this year if they don’t feel like they’re getting much out of church anymore?
A: Keep meeting together with other members of the body of Christ. Whether you believe this about yourself or not, you reflect a part of God’s character to other people.

Church was never meant to be a spiritual buffet enjoyed in isolation, but a lavish banquet enjoyed in transformational community as we experience Christ in one another.

God’s presence is ubiquitous enough to meet you in your place of need. Keep stewarding your gifts, even when you don’t feel like you’re getting much, so other people don’t miss out on what God wants to accomplish through you.