We all do it (or to be more accurate, 45% of Americans do it). We set that grandiose New Year's resolution: lose weight, read more books, learn how to knit. A new study by the University of Scranton found that only 8% of people actually achieve their New Year’s goals.
College students can be especially susceptible to breaking their resolutions due to the change in environment, stress, and peer pressure that come from returning back to college after a long and relaxing break.
Andrew McCormick, LSOE '18, explains that the root of this failure might be the shift in environment from home to campus: “Other students might not know about their goals, or care enough about them so others might try to encourage them to do something that goes against their resolution.”
McCormick also explains that, “In general a lot of people set goals to do less of something or change something they've done in the past, and returning back to the same place with the same people makes it tougher to hold to resolutions.”
The best ways to make a resolution stick are to keep the resolution simple and quantify your progress. Most people attempt extreme transformations, however, due to the average college student's many competing priorities, this approach is doomed to fail. The resolution can be so daunting that some people even fail to launch in the first place.
“For college students, between balancing academics, the numerous extracurriculars, and their social lives, following through on demanding resolutions can easily fall by the wayside,” says Brandon Wu, MCAS '17. “It's certainly not impossible to set and carry through with such resolutions, but it takes a lot of self-control and willpower to do so, both of which college students may lack due to constantly overextending themselves in the aforementioned areas.”
Instead of making a goal, say, to lose some weight, the resolution that sticks must be tangible and quantifiable. Rather than say you’re going to lose some weight, set a proactive goal such as cutting out potato chips or ice cream for six weeks. Or on the other end, set a clear schedule shift. Find a time in your schedule where you can commit time to go to an exercise class (e.g. spin class, yoga class) or lift weights on a weekly basis.
Vague goals create vague resolutions. Having a simple goal of cutting out something or adding one lifestyle change can create a lasting habit. Keeping your goals underwhelming, rather than overwhelming and overbearing can create more lasting and positive results.
Wu finds that for him, adding something to his schedule helps him to keep his resolution: “I've done things such as trying to cut back on unproductive things (i.e. web browsing) while replacing them with more meaningful substitutions,” Wu explains. “I found that removing something that I was very accustomed to (again, like spending a lot of time on the web) was difficult if I had just free time in its place. So having something to do, like working on my photography or picking up another new hobby, was both helpful and necessary.”
Another way to keep your resolution resolved is to make your progress obvious. Experts recommend that you chart your goals in some fashion. While there is no universal strategy for success, making a clear to-do list or visual boards can do the trick. If you are planning on going to barre fitness classes twice a week, put the times in your calendar or agenda and for each time you actually go, put a sticker on that day.
A simple reminder of how far you have gotten in your goal will help to make your resolution into a habit, and quicker than you know it, you won’t even have to put stickers down to motivate yourself.
“I think the thing that makes it hard for students is that we’re busy and we have a lot of things that need to be accomplished for classes and extracurriculars,” explains Brad Bitzer, MCAS '17. “But if you can just make it a daily routine and not allow yourself to be distracted in just relaxing, it gets easier over time to keep doing it.”
If you don’t think you can complete a task alone, use the buddy system. This approach is best if your resolution involves attending some sort of event, such as going to department lectures or fitness classes. Having a buddy will keep you accountable and will make fulfilling your resolution more fun.
For junior Nikita Patel, CSOM '17, the only resolution she ever made for New Year's was just not worth it; she merely continued on with her habit. “I'm hopelessly addicted to BC dining cookies to the point where my roommates all make fun of me for it, and I have one to three everyday. I made a resolution to cut down to only three a week and I failed immediately,” she says. "Eating four more cookies a week hasn't killed me yet.”
This New Year's Eve, think about what you really want for 2016. Come up with a list of goals you want to aim toward in the New Year, and for each goal, come up with simple solutions to achieve that goal—bite-size pieces. Keep the actual day-to-day actions as simple and small as possible and you will be well on your way to success.