New Year’s resolutions are notoriously difficult to keep, at least for the long haul. Many of us resolve to improve our physical fitness, finish a home project like clutter-clearing or embrace better sleep or eating habits. Inspired at the start of the year, we earnestly dive in. But within a few weeks, many of us are more likely to be lamenting our slip-ups than charging forward with confidence and commitment.

Last year, I tried something that helped me stick with commitments I made to myself. I found an “accountability buddy” who was interested in the same pursuit, but was as nervous as I was that time wouldn’t be kind to my dedication level.

Our goal was to regularly attend a fitness class. We both have busy lives and many obligations. So we set some ground rules that would keep both our motivation and our friendship intact in the weeks and months ahead.

1)  Hope, Don’t Expect

I know that if I set the expectation that I would make it to class every single week, I would quickly disappoint both myself and my accountability buddy. So we agreed early on that we were there to encourage each other, to hope we’d make it regularly—but we would not hold each other to rigid expectations or standards that would detract from the positivity of the class or our buddy arrangement.

2)  Communicate Clearly

It’s so helpful to have a basic text thread where one of us can simply ask, “Class tomorrow?” The response can either be a hearty, “Yeah!” or a “Bummer, I can’t.” But we know we’ll hear from each other, which not only ensures we’ll both remember the class day and time, it also keeps us connected regardless of whether we’re in class together.

3)  Don’t Allow Apologies

Being a positive accountability buddy means inspiring and supporting your partner in your shared journeys toward a goal. It doesn’t mean we have to explain ourselves or apologize for life that gets in the way of our best-laid plans more often than we’d like. Declaring the accountability buddy relationship to be a “sorry-free zone” encourages each of us to do our best to be accountable to each other, but to ditch the guilt when we just can’t make it happen.

Because no matter what happened this week, there’s always next week’s class—and more importantly, I have a buddy I’m looking forward to going with.