Forget New Year’s Resolutions

By the time you read this, it will already be the end of January 2020 and the majority of Americans have given up on the New Year’s resolutions that they were so determined to follow just a few weeks ago. The list of common resolutions goes on: Exercising, drinking more water, reading the Bible, reducing smartphone usage and so on.

According to psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert via Business Insider, New Year’s resolutions fail for three main reasons: They are not specific enough, they are framed negatively and they are not relevant for individuals.

To combat these things, goals need to be specific and measurable, be framed with positive language, and be about an individual’s personal desires rather than something society tells someone they should change.

I would argue that another reason they fail is because people create unrealistic goals. For example, someone who never went to the gym in 2019 probably cannot pledge to spend 30 minutes in the gym three times each week beginning Jan. 1 and keep up with it. While that may be an achievable goal for some, there is a low chance of success if it is too drastic of a change.

People in the United States cannot keep up with their resolutions. Each year, millions of people set goals for themselves in honor of New Year’s, but research shows the majority of people give up on their goals before the end of January. It is OK to fail, but the problem is many people spend the other 11 months of the year waiting to try again.

As students, we often wait for the beginning of a semester or a new year to “reset” and give new things a try. However, we cannot live waiting for things to get better in the future. Self-improvement is not tied to New Year’s Day. Goals can and should be set at any time. 

If you thought you were going to stop procrastinating this semester, but you already messed up and did your first assignment at the last minute, do not give up. If you fail, try again. Frame goals with positive language, saying “Do homework in advance” rather than “Do not procrastinate.”

This semester is still just beginning, and there are 11 more months to go until 2021. If you have something in your life you want to change, in the words of Shia LaBeouf in his motivational speech video, “Just do it.”

Jan. 1 is not a magical day for goals. Achieving those resolutions is about setting realistic, specific goals—on any day of the year—and not giving up at the first sign of failure. If you will not do something today, you probably will not try tomorrow.

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