At the dawn of each new year, most of us select one goal to achieve in the next 365 days. Whether you’ve buckled down for days trying to compile a strict list or will end up making some last-minute decision as the clock strikes 12, New Year’s resolutions are a tradition we have a hard time dismissing. Maybe someone will give up smoking, or try to drink less, or perhaps vow to lose 20 pounds in the coming months. Your resolution could be as strange as trying to laugh more often or cutting your ramen noodle consumption to three times per week. However, as hard as it may be to conjure up ideas for resolutions, by far the most difficult part is sticking to them.
Everyone’s problem with their New Year’s Eve promise is that it is often entirely unachievable. Let’s say you have a typical college student dependency on caffeine and you vow, as the ball drops in New York City, that you are going to stop drinking coffee forever, cold turkey. However, if you know that this really isn’t something you can do in the long run, you’re going to reach a critical point. It will be that moment when you are crossing central campus on your way to class after pulling an all-nighter, and you start eyeballing the Caribou Coffee at the Hub. You’ll probably be able to smell the rich cafe scent, and pretty soon, all you can think about is getting that glorious caffeine in your body. And in that moment when the immediate benefits overrule that New Year’s resolution in the distant past, you will break.
When this happens, the resolution is often not returned to or even thought of again until, guiltily, at the next New Year’s Eve. The “cold turkey” method of quitting or changing anything works for very few people. Instead, if you truly want your resolutions to last through the year (or several years), you must make your objectives quantifiable. If you are, as the person in the earlier scenario, too dependent on coffee, limit yourself to a specific allotment of caffeinated drinks per week or even day. Likewise, if your resolution is maybe to drop a few pounds, you probably won’t get anywhere by swearing to eat only salad for months and run five miles a day. Instead, maybe try counting calories and lessening how many you intake by a measurable amount each day.
As well as being measurable, your goals for your New Year’s resolution need to be amendable. The best way to do it is to start off with a small but extremely achievable objective. If you can manage to pull that off for a month or two, make your goals more strict and exact. If you are cutting calories, perhaps take 200 off of your daily diet for a month. During the next month, cut back another 200. If you feel that your fun weekend life is seeping into your education and damaging your schoolwork, have one drink less or stay at home studying one night more. It may seem like these adjustments are too small, but they are manageable and will, over time, make a difference. Similarly, if the goals that you have set for yourself are way out of reach, change them instead of giving them up entirely.
To many, a New Year’s resolution may just be a ridiculous tradition with no significance other than as an excuse to get crazy on the last night of 2012. However, if there is something that you truly want to change, New Year’s Eve can be a perfect time to attempt to start fresh. Spend your last few days of 2012 doing whatever you wish and see the year out with all due glory. But think a moment about how you want 2013 to turn out and what you can do to make it happen. It could be just another normal year, but it could also be much more than that. Whether you are trying to be more daring, or happier, or learn a new language, you have the ability to make 2013 very exciting. Change isn’t easy for anyone, but with the new year comes endless potential for a new, or at least slightly different, life.
But maybe you really don’t think there is a resolution you can stick to. Or maybe you really don’t need to change. In any case, I’ve found that the easiest way to not break any resolutions is to not make them at all.