It is once again the time of year when the promises of a clean slate inspire us to make changes in our daily lives. The start of a new year symbolizes the idea of self-improvement, a new routine and increased productivity for many. It is also the time of year when New Year’s resolutions flood social media and many conversations as people fling themselves into their new goals head-first. In reality, these shiny new resolutions are usually abandoned by February, if not sooner.
While writing my resolutions this year, I pored over last year’s list of failed resolutions trying to get a sense of where I went wrong. My list was somewhere along the lines of “exercise more, study more, and write more.” Was it a lack of self-discipline and time management skills? Did I just jinx myself by speaking these results into existence?
The simple answer is, like many common resolutions, my goals were simply too vague. While setting resolutions doesn’t have to be anything more than a fun tradition, if you do set resolutions with the intention of seeing results, it doesn’t have to be as impossible as it seems.
Goals should be measurable
One of the first steps to setting goals that can actually be achieved is to skip the vague wording and set a specific number or end result to strive for. My resolution last year to write more has become, “write for 20 minutes three times a week,” which gives me a set number to work off of and plan my weekly schedule around. As someone who also loves a good checklist, it also creates a task in my head that needs to be completed and marked off.
Goals should be flexible
As students, our schedules are often very inconsistent, and it can be difficult to establish a set routine. Pursuing goals depends on habit-forming behavior, and it is not always easy to form a habit without already having an established routine or a crazy amount of free time. Adjusting goals to fit your current routine at any given moment is a great idea to ensure you are not overwhelmed by the big promises you made during a less hectic time. You have a busy 365 days ahead, and it’s okay if the goals you’re working towards aren’t realistic for every single one of those days.
Goals should meet you where you are
Being mindful of your current abilities and the tools or opportunities available to you in this current moment can be another helpful step as you set out to form these new habits. If you want to run a 5K by the end of the year, but have not already integrated running of any kind into your routine, this goal can seem completely impossible. I personally like to split my year into quarters, with a different small goal for each quarter that will put me closer to my big end goal.
Another practice I’ve adopted when thinking about my goals for a fresh year is setting a theme for the year ahead. Think easy, one-word themes: exploration, openness, health. I love the idea of using a vague descriptor as a guide for making decisions or setting goals in the new year.
To build on one of the previous examples, exploration could mean many different things. It could literally mean making an effort to travel more in the new year by saving up money or planning trips. It could mean trying out new hobbies and learning more about unfamiliar subjects, putting effort into new relationships or getting more comfortable with examining yourself and trying to build confidence. All of these could be loosely related to the main theme of your year, and it’s up to you to decide what your theme means to you and how you want to apply it.
New Year’s resolutions are such a fun way to start thinking about what you want your year to look like, and these are just a few ways those resolutions can become real and tangible goals to work towards. While this path looks different for everyone, making “new year, new me,” a reality doesn’t have to be an insurmountable challenge.
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DK on January 20, 2023
Great article! I really like the idea of goals being measurable and sustainable. I’ll definitely keep that in mind when setting my own goals this year. Thanks for writing!