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New Year's Resolutions: Starting the New Year Off Right

Happy New Year! For most of us, a new year is like a reset, so when a new year starts to approach, setting new year's resolutions is a part of the tradition. It's a time of change, an opportunity to become the best versions of ourselves, and perhaps the moment to finally put our minds to that goal we've been putting off.

It is good to be ambitious; however, according to a study, around 80% of new year's resolutions fail. Another study at Scranton University found that only 19 percent of individuals keep their resolutions—most resolutions are abandoned mid-January. Why is that? Oftentimes when we are creating our resolutions, we forget to think about how we will achieve them. It is easy to speak about a goal, but it is harder to make it into reality. This is because we can be so distracted by the potential end product that we forget about the process and work it takes to reach the "end."

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During a Business Insider interview with psychotherapist Jonathan Alpert, he spoke about the 3 main reasons people cannot complete their new year resolutions. The first was that the goal was not specific enough; the second, you are not framing it positively; and lastly, it is not about you. Successful goals need to be meaningful and specific to you that you are willing to actually work towards, no matter how tedious it may be.

Typically, people create new year's resolutions not because they want to but because they feel pressured to change and improve immediately after December 31st. So, even if you abandoned your new year's resolutions at the beginning of the year, it's never too late to take them back up and complete them. If you feel a sudden spark of motivation halfway through the year, so be it! Don't wait for the new year—go out and chase your goals.

First step: Creating Goals

This is arguably the easiest step. However, you have to find a place to start. Goals that people don't follow through with are typically goals that are not attainable, specific, or connected to your happiness. Having attainable goals is an important part of your ambition. For example, instead of saying "I want to run a marathon," when you have no prior training or habit of running, say "I want to run 2 km under 20 minutes," and then progressively develop your goal until it becomes larger. Since the goal is more attainable, you have a larger chance of achieving it.

Having a specific goal is important to get you started, and it helps you focus on one thing. If you wanted to learn more through books, your goal could be to read for 15 minutes before you go to sleep every night. For goals like this one, blocking out a specific time to work towards it can hold you accountable.

Lastly, create a goal that is about you and makes you happy. It can be easy to fall into picking resolutions because of societal standards—losing weight, for example. Take a second to think about it truly: will losing weight make you happy? Instead of letting the number on the scale dictate whether or not you completed your goal, try reframing it into something that will be easier on your mind. That way, if you don't end up losing weight, you won't see it as a failure. A better goal could be something like "eat more balanced meals" or "find out what kind of exercise I truly enjoy." Exercise doesn't have to be done for the sole purpose of changing your body; it can be a fun activity in your everyday life. Try dancing, hiking, or even rock climbing, and find what works for you. Regardless of your resolution, try and choose one that will make you happy through the process and the result.

To help you check off what makes a good goal, use the acronym SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound). This will help to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed. You'll find that you're able to keep your eye on the end goal and track your progress much more effectively when you organize it well beforehand.

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If you need some ideas for your resolutions or want to learn more about the science behind habits, read this article: Guide to Creating Good Habits and Breaking the Bad Ones.

Second step: A Plan

James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, wrote: "goals are good for setting a direction, but systems are best for making progress. A handful of problems arise when you spend too much time thinking about your goals and not enough time designing your systems." He's saying that to reach your goal, you have to have a system that implements that goal into your life.

A survey done by Ipsos for Urban Plates found that the most popular new year's resolutions are:

  • Manage finances better

  • Eat healthier

  • Be more active

  • Lose weight

  • Improve mental wellbeing

  • Improve social connections

Although these are good goals, there needs to be a long-term plan if you really plan on achieving them. For example, if you want to be more active by going on runs, write down: "I will go on a 2 km run 4 times a week in the morning, before school. I will use a fitness app to measure my progress, and in April, I will try out for the track and field team. I will commit to this goal to improve my stamina, physical wellbeing, and to stay healthy."

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With a system created, put reminders everywhere to complete that system as often as you need to. Since habits take around 18 to 254 days to set in place, it might be hard remembering to incorporate them into your daily routine. Try writing them on post-it notes and stick them to the location that your system occurs, or set electronic reminders so that you get a notification when it is time to continue working toward your goal.

If possible, accountability buddies can help you stay on track, especially if you two have similar goals. Then, you could work on your systems together. Creating a system to follow instead of setting fixated goals can make the "end goal" feel more achievable. It can also help you develop a growth mindset and continue with that positive habit in the long term, even after hitting your specific goal.

Third step: Following Through

Now, the hardest part of the process: getting started and following through with your plan. As Shia LaBeouf has so eloquently put it in his motivational speech, "just do it!" Yes, it will be hard, and you might want to quit from time to time, but you have to remind yourself why you want to implement these new systems in your life. It is important to remember that if it were easy, everyone would do it. The only person who can push you to be your best self or spark that positive change is you. Systems and habits take time to form, so be patient with yourself. Ultimately, it takes a lot of time and hard work to see progress—and it takes even more time to reap the benefits. At the start, you might lack motivation, but think about how that goal will help you in the course of your life. Good luck!

“It matters if you just don’t give up.” - Stephen Hawking.

Article author: Kelley Liang

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Edie Whittington