Are New Year’s Resolutions Worth It?

Is January just another month, or is it really the time for change?

Illustrator: Tessa Portuese

“What are your New Year’s resolutions this year?” I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked this question in the month of January. We habitually make these new rules that we want to abide by when the biting cold of January sets in. However, according to a Forbes article, only 8% of people actually stick to their resolutions. So, what’s the deal? Of course, most everyone wants to improve themselves, but how can we make these changes permanent?

For the year of 2018, I made my first serious New Year’s resolutions. I say serious because there have been many years when I make resolutions with no real intention of ever following through. But this year was different. I wanted to make the most out of the rest of my time at the University of Minnesota. I am a transfer student and last semester was my first one here. The adjustment from a small community college to one as large as the University was difficult and took time. I didn’t get involved in any clubs or attend many events, and I barely utilized services offered by the recreation and wellness center.

What it comes down to is motivation and mindset.

I decided that spring semester would be different. I was going to get involved in clubs, attend events, and go to the workout and yoga classes at the recwell. And I actually did. I joined The Wake (obviously) as well as the Russian Student Speaking Association (RSSA), scheduled some campus events on my Google Calendar, and went to recwell classes at least three times a week. So how can it be done and what’s required?

First of all, the timing of the year does not matter. There’s this magical idea that the second they wake up on Jan. 1, they’re going to have the drive and determination to stick to your goals. Reality check: you’re still the same person you were the day before, only now you write 2018 next to your signature instead of 2017. You can begin a new goal in May or October—the timing doesn’t change anything. What it comes down to is motivation and mindset. But how can you put checks in place to make sure you don’t fall off the rails?

Resilience is key here.

Start small and make it realistic. If your big goal is to work out five times a week then start by going three times a week and slowly build from there. If your goal is to be more social and attend more events, then start by going out two or three times the first month and slowly increase. The reason so many resolutions and self-improvement goals flop is because we feel defeated by the small failures. But this is a part of any road to success and in order to succeed we must get up, dust ourselves off, and try again. And again, and again, and again. Resilience is key here. Life is full of disappointments and let downs, but if we stopped trying then we wouldn’t even be living anymore.

But the most important factor of all if you want to change your life in some way? Mindset. This is the reaction that people have to bad news and daily inconveniences. By changing the way you view things that happen, you will ultimately change your overall mood. What’s the point in getting upset that you spilled your coffee? It happened, it’s done, it’s over. You can’t go back in time to stop yourself from knocking it over, so what’s left to be done? Clean it up and move on. Since we can’t control everything that happens to us in life we need to focus on the things that we can control. And that is the way we perceive the things that happen to us. What’s the point in letting your mood go sour over a mild annoyance or daily irritation? You’ll be happier and healthier when you learn to let go of your false sense of control, accept what happens, and enjoy the ride.