New Year’s resolutions reinforce the importance of self-growth and goal-setting

On Jan. 1, everyone seems to have an idea of how they want their new year to look, from healthier habits to learning new skills. Although some set goals intended for the entire year ahead, more often than not, they don’t end up following through with them. According to a study done at the University of Scranton, 77% of people maintained their resolution for one week. After ten weeks, only 19% of people had kept up with their resolutions.

“Some of my resolutions for this year have been to eat a more plant-based diet,  sort through a few closets in my house and donate items that I’ve been holding onto for nothing,” Psychology teacher Lindsay Hackman said. “I always set a goal or two for the year, but usually they’re health-related as my philosophy is that good health is the result of good habits.”

According to senior Alannah Rodrigues, the new year shouldn’t be when you decide to change yourself because then your intentions are misplaced.

 “Do it because you really want to, and if you really want to change, you’ll be able to change at any point in the year,” Rodrigues said. 

Many factors play into how resolutions are made and how they can be proven to be effective and guide the new year. A common mistake is being overly ambitious with the resolutions. In order to achieve a successful resolution, they should try to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. 

“Although I know how effective specific and measurable resolutions may be, mine this year is achievable and relevant,” senior Dana Oyen said. “There is no time frame for this because my resolution of positive self-talk is timeless, but they definitely work best when mapped out.”

According to Rodrigues, people think their lives will change just because the calendar did, but change within yourself is generally gradual and slow-moving.

An individual’s will power varies from person to person. Those really determined to initiate some sort of change in their lives will likely stay more committed to their resolutions. Even the most realistic goals and the highest level of will power may fall victim to sneaky curveballs and “speed bumps” in life. Unexpected circumstances can pop up at any time and affect someone’s progress towards a New Year’s resolution.

The psychology behind resolutions seems to be prevalent in behaviorism with positive reinforcement, where certain behaviors are followed by a reward. Food and money are obvious reinforcers but not really appropriate if your resolution is to maintain a diet or save money. According to Hackman, positive reinforcement tends to increase a certain behavior. 

“It’s kind of ridiculous that the dessert table you dove into Christmas Eve was totally acceptable but, now come Jan. 1, you’re starting a new chapter,” Hackman said. “That said, those ‘mind games’ work for some people, but if a stated resolution serves as motivation to achieve a goal, I think this can be very powerful.”

The ironic part about resolutions like these is that, instead of feeling good and proud about oneself for having a resolution and trying to keep it, people can end up feeling demoralized and ashamed for not achieving their resolutions.

“I do sometimes end up feeling guilty for not achieving my resolutions especially because the goals we set are far-reaching and larger than realistically possible at the time,” Rodrigues said.

By being able to prioritize goals and set concrete, realistic goals and deadlines, the resolutions will have a greater chance of being successful. Whether someone is wishing for a better-paying job or to eat healthier, a resolution that will force someone to break unhealthy habits, break new ground, or beat personal records will set the stage for continued growth.

“As long as your resolutions are within reason and don’t deprive you from something, they are more likely to have a successful turnout,” Oyen said. “Pick something realistic and something you’re passionate about and tell others to keep you accountable for your resolution.”