A Guide to Keeping Your Resolutions
Reading Time: 4 minutes
The ball drops, confetti fills up your television screen, and 2022 begins. “New year, new me,” you say, anticipating the accomplishments you’ll make this year. 2021 was where you left studying for the night before the test and chugged down four cups of coffee each day. 2022 though, will be different. The perfect Stuyvesant student will start now. Maybe you’ll even start using your planner consistently.
Well, hold your horses. As optimistic as we feel at the turn of the new year, don’t count on keeping your New Year’s resolutions for long. The statistics for holding New Year’s resolutions are bleak: in a study of 200 New Year's resolvers, an overwhelming 77 percent of the participants maintained their goals for only a week. For resolvers, setting goals after New Year’s is a tradition that correlates with self-improvement and idealism as it is an easy thing to say or write down. Pursuing the goal, on the other hand, is harder as the individual has to deal with difficulties posed by reality and themselves to achieve their goal. The differences between the science of goal-setting and goal-striving make experiences of these two noteworthy parts of the New Year’s tradition.
The tradition of New Year’s resolutions stems from the societal construct of temporal boundaries, or calendar landmarks. The mark of a new month, year, or school semester stimulates a source of motivation and opens an opportunity to make a change to oneself; creating goals during this period helps in creating the notion of a “fresh start.” The long-term goals that people make during New Year help give them a better map of their life for the next year, providing a sense of stability in the short term. During temporal boundaries, people develop a dissociation between their present and past selves, hence the phrase, “new year, new me.” In the given moment, we picture our future selves as our more ideal selves: versions of us who are closer to achieving our long-term goals.
However, this rosy picture is disrupted when reality hits shortly. After a few weeks of effortful pursuit of our goals, the difficulty in maintaining them seems more vivid and the rewards feel distant. Combined with external stressors, such as major life changes or school stress, our initial motivations fade away. It is easy for us to get distracted by events happening around us, and when we see the desired progress is not made, the acknowledgment of one’s lack of productivity further weakens their motivation. Humans also have the tendency to delay things for later, or procrastinate, as the new year settles in because our original goal may seem harder to achieve than how it originally seemed. In this way, people may sometimes intentionally distract themselves from their goal as a coping mechanism to protect themselves from actually taking on the overwhelming responsibility of keeping a resolution.
For Stuyvesant students, our New Year’s resolutions range from social to professional to educational improvements. Adolescence is the period of time where we strive for validation and independence, and setting up goals and successfully accomplishing them are influential to these feelings. Though we may start off the first couple of weeks headstrong, it is undeniably difficult to preserve this consistency for the whole year, especially when dealing with the stressful environment of our school. However, with the right action plan and a strong, prevailing mindset, you can look back at the end of the year with pride and a sense of fulfillment. Here are some tips for keeping your New Year’s resolutions for the long-run:
1. Focus on why you set this goal. Every goal has a reason behind it, especially long-term ones. For example, if your goal for the new year is to sleep for at least eight hours, it would be due to a desire to improve your health and school life. New Year’s resolutions correlate with a desire to change oneself for the better, whether it be physically or mentally. When in need of motivation, it can be helpful to recall the initial reason as to why you made this decision and its benefits.
2. Take it step by step. For many, keeping long-term goals is difficult due to the time and dedication required as well as behavioral changes. To account for this, create smaller and subordinate goals to build up to the long-term goal. Fulfilling smaller goals assists in developing the motivation required for the larger goal.
3. Make it personal. Studies have shown that goals that are more relevant to one’s identity are more likely to be successful. Personal connections enhance one’s intrinsic motivation, which is motivation that stems from the person’s own desire to fulfill a behavior, rather than extrinsic motivation that is influenced by external factors, such as monetary rewards and peer pressure. Unlike extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation is long-term and helps in keeping a goal longer. Personal connections with your resolution can be fostered by better understanding the impact of the goal on your life and understanding how it can improve you as a person.
4. Pursue your New Year’s resolutions with a friend by your side. Not only does having a friend pursuing your New Year’s resolution with you fun, but it also instills a sense of accountability. This accountability also gives a dopamine boost, which encourages you to continue with the habit.
5. Be disciplined. When taking on a long-term goal like a New Year’s resolution, the need for discipline also comes with motivation. It is important to focus on your goal and take appropriate measures to achieve it, such as having responsibility for the times when you lack motivation and putting in the effort of solving this problem.