Come December of any calendar year, I can assure you that the resolution I set in January has been long forgotten. In fact, even in the first few weeks of the new year, my resolutions typically fly out the window without a second thought. As the question of “What is your New Year’s resolution?” arose this past December, I took some time to analyze the purpose and practicality of New Year's resolutions. What are they? Why are they only associated with the New Year? And are they ever truly pursued?
As college students, we are constantly bombarded with the realization that we must improve in a certain area of our life. Each semester, we set new goals and are given the opportunity to make changes to our lifestyles, whether they be school-related or not. In all honesty, I find that when it comes to the New Year and the beginning of a semester, I typically set the same exact goals. Working out more, calling my mom every day, and writing more in my gratitude journal are just some of the goals that top my list at each new beginning. Most of the time, however, I find myself in a crisis mid-semester because I have not meaningfully or intentionally pursued any of the goals I set out for myself. But when college life returns in full force each semester, and our days become full, how is one able to focus on enacting large-scale life changes?
College is a time of consistently bettering yourself - that is precisely why we are here. And what I have come to realize, as my list of goals has been repeatedly intercepted by my schedule, is that resolutions can be invented and worked on at any time. There should be no timeline for self-betterment. At the end of the day, we should be setting new goals regardless of the time of semester or the time of year. Realizing midway through a time period that the goals you set at the start are not being brought to fruition leaves us feeling like we have failed ourselves. But ironically, the most effective time to make a change or start something new is right when you realize an area of your life is not working. In other words, you should fix issues in college as you notice them. The approach of preemptively setting your goals and actively pursuing them at the beginning of a new era is one that is bound to fail, and it creates unrealistic expectations of linear growth, even as student life is filled with commitments and distractions. Stacking resolutions all at once is not only impossible but also damaging to self-esteem.
In order to effectively set our goals and accomplish them, it is in our best interest to spread them out. Sure, setting one or two at the beginning of a year or semester is helpful. But overwhelming yourself with long-term goals, which could be tackled piece-by-piece or as we notice things worth changing, creates more stress than excitement. Fulfilling resolutions is not a systematic undertaking. The false narrative of New Year's or semester resolutions is that they will automatically be fulfilled in a certain amount of time. However, they will undoubtedly be met with challenges, hardships, and setbacks that are unpredictable. What truly matters is how we respond to shortcomings, learn from our mistakes, and create new goals of self-betterment as the year progresses.