The holiday season is a time for celebrating, gathering, and embracing the end of the year. And when January 1 arrives, everyone is ready for a fresh start. A new year holds so much possibility – you can accomplish anything, set new goals, and reset with a clean slate.

That’s why so many people choose to make New Year’s resolutions every year. In January, you can kick start a new habit, set a new goal, and make plans for a “new year, new you.” Unfortunately, New Year’s resolutions rarely make it past the month mark. And by February, they’re nothing but reminders of failed or lost goals.

How can you possibly prepare yourself to keep your New Year’s resolutions? It’s a tough task for anyone, but with the right approach, you can actually continue working towards your goals for the year ahead. You just need to know how to set yourself up for success before January 1 arrives.

Why Most New Year’s Resolutions Fail

Although we have the best, most hopeful intentions when we make New Year’s resolutions, we’re almost guaranteed to fail at keeping them. In fact, most New Year’s resolutions don’t even last two months. 

By the time February begins, approximately 80 percent of people have completely given up on their resolutions. No matter how big or small your resolution may have been, trying to stick it out for any longer than six week usually doesn’t happen. 

But why do we all fail at keeping our New Year’s resolutions? Why is it so difficult to get these goals, accomplishments, and plans to stick? 

Well, there are a few things wrong with the way we create and set resolutions. Here’s why only 20 percent of us can stick to them at all.

Most Resolutions Are Too Vague

When you set your New Year’s resolutions, do you think about what you’ll need to actually accomplish your goals? Probably not. 

And you’re not alone. Most people set resolutions without thinking about what it’ll take to actually see them through. For example, resolutions like “I’ll leave my job and start a new career this year,” “I’ll lose weight,” or even “I’ll stop biting my nails” are lofty. They’re also really, really vague.

How can you keep your resolutions if you don’t exactly know how to accomplish them? When resolutions are too big and too vague, you’re going to struggle to actually see results. Vague resolutions don’t give you any path forward – they only tell you what your end result, or success, should be.

Some Resolutions Require Too Much Change – And They Become Impossible

Your New Year’s resolutions might be asking you to take on way too much. For example, many people set resolutions that will help them eat or live healthier in the year ahead. You might resolve to cut junk food out of your diet, start running regularly, or hit the gym five days a week.

But unfortunately, these healthy resolutions require you to make big changes really quickly. You might go from avoiding the gym every day of the year to forcing yourself out of bed early each morning to work out. You may need to throw out all the junk food in your house, leaving you with only “healthy” options.

And these all-or-nothing sweeping changes are too tough to keep. You’re setting yourself up for failure if you try to accomplish too much too quickly. After all, who wants to go from indulging every once in a while to only eating salads? You’ll feel like it’s impossible.

Resolutions Restrict Instead of Reward

No one enjoys giving up their favorite foods, habits, and hobbies. It’s so much more unpleasant to force yourself into “good” behavior than it is to reward yourself for making progress. And that’s one big reason that many New Year’s resolutions fail. 

When you’re trying to stick to your resolutions, you likely restrict yourself in many ways. No sugar, no junk food, no binge-watching Netflix shows, no spending money on frivolous things – these are just a few examples of how a resolution might restrict you.

Ironically, humans respond better to rewards than restrictions. So, when you’re trying to make a difficult change stick, you need to reward yourself. If you don’t start seeing rewarding results after hitting the gym for a week or two, you’re going to lose your motivation. If you don’t start losing weight after eliminating unhealthy foods, you’ll give up.

Ultimately, your New Year’s resolutions could fail because of one of these factors, or even a combination of them. And sometimes, life becomes too hectic to implement big life changes. But there is a way you can make your resolutions stick. There is a tactic that could help you keep your resolutions well past February 1.

Start With Small Steps Instead

Instead of trying to overhaul your life when you make your New Year’s resolutions, try a different approach. Try setting smaller resolutions that build up to, or result in, a larger goal. This could be the key to seeing success and actually sticking with your resolutions.

Think about your resolutions as preparation, or training, for an overall goal. As the New York Times explains, you should approach your resolutions like a marathon runner who’s preparing for a big race – you need to practice, hit milestones, and build up endurance.

So, when you make a resolution, you need to build up your stamina in order to keep it. For example, resolving to lose 50 pounds by the end of the year means you’ll need to set smaller resolutions too in order to help you succeed. You can do this with additional resolutions like, “I will eat an extra serving of vegetables at dinner time each day” and “I will pack my lunch and bring it to work three times a week.” 

Other big resolutions can be broken down into smaller steps too. Want to change careers in the new year? Set focused resolutions like, “I will revamp my resume within two months” or “I will apply for 15 new jobs each week.” Interested in getting more active? Focus on small-scope resolutions like “I will visit the gym three days a week” or “I will do strength training twice each week.”

Build New Habits During December to See Success

In addition to setting resolutions that avoid all the common marks of failure, it’s a smart idea to get a head start. Diving into your new lifestyle changes and resolutions to change on January offers the perfect fresh start. But starting a week or two early could help you be more successful. 

Experts recommend trying out your resolutions in December to set your new habits in stone. Starting on your resolutions a little early will give you more flexibility – you can try out the habits or new changes, make adjustments, and even slip up without worry. You can use the last weeks of the year to really practice your resolutions. 

And then, on January 1, you’ll be ready for success. You can give your new resolutions your entire focus. You might even find that it’s much easier to stick with these changes or new goals since you’ve already been trying them out.