We all do it every single year. We start off with resolutions that may last as long as the new feeling of the New Year if we are lucky. However, according to the Journal of Clinical Psychology, planning to lose weight was the top New Year’s resolution in 2012, and only about 8% of all of those who made resolutions succeeded. That’s truly a deflating statistic, which makes us wonder if making a New Year’s resolution is even worth attempting. Maybe we shouldn’t be setting goals for ourselves, or at least, we should change the way that we strive to reach them.

Of course, goals are worth persuing, but perhaps, it is the way that we strive to achieve that is the problem. There are two things that I have learned this year that have tremendously helped me advance down a better path of improvement:

1) Not all goals need to be taken so seriously.  Unless you are working to improve something that has life or death consequences, maybe you are being too hard on yourself for the goals that you are trying to achieve. To me, when I am too committed to something, it makes me want to do it less because it takes the fun out of it. For example, one of my New Year’s resolutions was to learn how to play guitar. I promised to practice for at least 20 minutes per day and to continually advance through online lessons. As you may have predicted, I didn’t make it to Valentine’s Day! Not until recently did I try a different approach, which has proven so far to be the best. Simply, have fun with your new change! Not only will you enjoy the process, but you will also get better results because there is no pressure! Now, I am naturally picking up the guitar regularly, playing as long as I feel like it, and learning songs and techniques that I want to. I am making this self-improvement and enjoying the process at the same time.

2) Don’t be a Three-Day Monk. The Three-Day Monk concept is one that I picked up following Leo Baubata, the author of zenhabits.net. Basically, a Three-Day Monk is someone who fully commits to something for about three days, to only then abandon it because the goal is too restricting, or because they could not achieve the same level of intense commitment past a few days. This concept has taken a lot of stress out of my life when it comes to reaching goals that I have set for myself. I don’t jump too hard into committing to something, and I don’t consider myself a failure and quit when my plans don’t go how I want to.

Both of these lessons can help all of us improve on our exercise and eating habits. Overall, it is important to realize that your path to improvement isn’t perfect. There will be delays and setbacks, and frankly, times when you don’t feel like giving your goal any attention.  It is key to realize and accept that we are not perfect and never will be. However, as long as we don’t give up and keep persuing worthwhile changes, we can never fail.

So, as you begin to think about your New Year’s resolutions or any new goal that you are setting for yourself, be open to alternate routes to reaching your planned destination.