New Year's resolutions can be short-lived, so how do you go about making real life and career changes?

Happy New Year! Hopefully you have had a good break and are looking to 2017 with renewed vigour and focus.

Auckland's Dr Stress, John McEwan, says the beginning of the new year is a time to think about what 2017 can set up for you.

"It's not just about what you will do this year, it's about looking at how 2017 can set you up for the rest of your life.

"We've all experienced the deaths of family and friends - this is the time to give thanks that we do have another new year and we need to look at how we'll use it. Not everyone has been given this opportunity."

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Monique Night, a speaker on stress management and owner of the Tui Centre for psychotherapy and counselling, agrees.

"Even if you are not making huge leaps into change you can make small steps that move you forward towards your goals.

"Making a plan, finding out your options, talking to friends, and challenging yourself to be more effective are all ways to ensure that you have a sense of progression and can make decisions based on what you know - quantity and quality rather than working on assumptions about greener grass over there."

She says it's good to consider people, places and things and suggests you consider the following:

"As far as people are concerned, are there new networks and relationships you can create in the next year that can further your goals.

"Considering places, do you want to travel less to work or more? Is the environment of your workplace what you want?

"Then consider 'things': Are you doing the job you want to do? What do you like about your work and what do you not enjoy? Are there skill sets you can work on developing to help with future goals?"

Knight says in order to make these decisions, it's important that you have had a break.

"The first task of a holiday is to relax and it can take 10 days for your body and mind to refresh. Once you have had quality time for yourself, allow yourself to imagine how you will feel if you are in the same situation next year. Is this prospect exciting or are you filled with dread?

"The New Year is an excellent time to consider your next step. Quitting your current job may be impulsive and not possible but there are other things you can plan for and organise. Study or professional development may be possible. Would you like to change career completely? Then some research may be in order?"

McEwan has a tool: "Finding our core values - a 360-degree analysis of future goals" which he has shared.

He says it's important not to see this as just a wish list.

"It's about looking at what you want to achieve and what you need to do to give yourself those options.

"You may decide one of the things you want to do in 2017 is walk the Milford Track - you need to consider what to do to achieve that. It wouldn't work to just decide and go if you're not fit enough, so the plan would be to build fitness over the year. Think about how you'll achieve it. Will you go with your partner, are you at the same age and stage, will the same approach work for both of you?"

He says the tool is to look at each "segment" of your life in turn, and ask: "In this area where do I want to be, and what do I want to be doing in five years, 10 years, and even out to a decade turning time in 15-20 years?"

"Look at what you are doing to be yourself, and truly express your interests and values now in each area, then project forward and ask what needs to change to achieve a lifestyle and life content that reflects the real you."

Areas he suggests looking at are:

Creative: Where you are making something or performing.

Cultural: Where you are enjoying others, getting involved.

Spiritual: Where you are expressing your belief system.

Intellectual: Where you are learning something new, or advancing.

Environmental: What your living space reflects about you, and what places are recharges for you?

Social networks: What networks are working now for you? What new ones do you need to develop as you age?

Health/fitness: What food and activities do you prefer? What do you seek to achieve in these areas?

Professional: What goals and plans are achievable, and what needs to be done to achieve, position, perform?

Sexual relationship: What is working, what is needed, how mutual?

Family: Where will things be in the future in this area? How do you want this to be as you grow older?

It's really important to renew your focus, says Knight.

"Focus comes with a sense of purpose and feeling that what we are doing means something to us. Having new goals each year will help generate new enthusiasm for your job."