As we all know from experience, making a New Year’s resolution is easy. Sticking with it and actually achieving your goal is hard – very hard.

People have been struggling to keep New Year’s resolutions for a long time. The practice is at least as old as ancient Roman times, when such resolutions were made as pledges to the pagan god Janus, the namesake for the month of January.

And knowing human nature, I imagine people have been setting goals for changes in their behavior for much longer – likely for as long as people have been around.

 Unfortunately, only about 8 percent of us who set goals achieve them. But the good news is that research shows people who make resolutions are 10 times more likely to change their behavior than those who never commit.

So go ahead and make some New Year’s resolutions – it’s an important first step. And read on to see how you can increase your chances of doing what you resolve.

You’ve probably wondered: Why do some people succeed in keeping their resolutions while most of us fail? The answer is that success comes to those who think and plan. It’s not just dumb luck.

There is no guaranteed path to success. But here are some tips I’ve discovered over the years through research; talking and working with many successful people; and my work in psychology, business, radio and TV.

Timing helps. The beginning of a new year is a good time to make a resolution to change your behavior in some way, because you know millions of people are doing the same thing. So you get positive reinforcement when family members, friends and co-workers talk about making and trying to stick with resolutions. You feel like you’re part of a worldwide self-improvement movement – and you are!

Be realistic and plan. Think about the resolution you want to make and how you can succeed in reaching your goal. If you weighed 40 pounds less in high school 20 years ago, dropping that much weight might be more than you can handle. So set a goal of losing 15 or 20 pounds. That would be real progress. And you can always try to lose more once you’re reached the more achievable goal. Then prepare yourself psychologically over a few days or weeks. Think about steps you will need to take to reach your goal.

Consider two linked goals. Scientists used to think that having one major resolution was more effective than a couple of smaller, interrelated goals. But recent studies by Dr. John Norcross at the University of Pennsylvania at Scranton show that having two goals – naturally linked to one another and more specific – may lead to better success. If you want to lose weight, for example, resolve that you will cut sugar and carb consumption, and that you will keep a journal listing everything you eat and drink. That will statistically increase your chances of following through with both actions and shedding a few pounds.

In my own anecdotal research in working with those at the top of their fields, I have noticed that they often couple their goals and usually make them very specific. Documenting their progress in reaching their goals can be a great add-on resolution, because other studies prove that accountability is a tool used by the most successful people in business. I have seen this in my work and research of successful people over and over again.

Make a public declaration. Telling people you have resolved to lose 20 pounds, run a marathon, learn how to speak a foreign language, or achieve some other goal will make you more reluctant to abandon that goal. Social media can be a useful tool. Post your new diet plan. Text those who can pray for you, encourage or network with you. This can be the reminder and motivator to keep you on track.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. These words, from a proverb taught to children in schools in the 1800s, remain true today. We all fail at times – no matter how hard we try – to keep our resolutions and reach our goals. Your response to failure is critical. “Getting back on the horse” when you fall makes you strong and will increase your chances of ultimate success. Don’t trash your whole self-improvement plan when things go badly and go through the psychological setback of a failure.

Reward yourself.  Planning a reward for progress in achieving your goal increases your probability of success. And reward yourself based on the time you have continued trying, as well as actual marked achievements. In other words, don’t wait until you have lost the full 20 pounds to reward yourself. Set small calendar or journal reminders for simply sticking to your plan every day for a week, a month, and so on. Then you will most assuredly see results.

In my experience, people who have attained success tend to focus on behaviors, rather than outcomes. For example, a business owner won’t simply set a goal of making $1 million in profit in a year. The owner will focus on taking specific steps needed to achieve the goal – whether attracting enough customers to make purchases at his restaurant, car dealership, or consumer electronics store. The specific steps will differ depending on the business, but the successful owner will come up with a game plan and then execute it.

Identifying behaviors that you can control, rather than lofty goals without knowing how to achieve them, can prove effective. Think of reaching your goal like traveling to a destination. For example, if you are in Chicago and want to drive to Disney World for a family vacation you need a car in good working order, a GPS or maps to tell you what roads to take, money and motel reservations. You don’t just leave on the spur of the moment and drive aimlessly. Grandma was right about planning ahead.

New research informs and expands the way success is attained. Coupling goals, keeping them simple, holding yourself accountable, and measuring incremental victories are critical steps to get you off to a strong and successful start in 2018.

Good luck, be strong and Happy New Year!