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How to Dominate at Setting Your New Year’s Resolutions 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UFL chapter.

Embrace change for 2023 

“2023 is going to be my year!” Sounds familiar, right? Many of us made the same statement last year, the year before, the year before that and so on. I know I’m certainly guilty of it. But, while it may seem stupid to some, these kinds of positive affirmations can help you enter the new year feeling motivated and optimistic. The same is true of my personal favorite New Year’s tradition: making resolutions. 

According to a 2017 press release published by the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 41% of Americans report making New Year’s resolutions. However, of that 41%, only 9% reported feeling like they successfully achieved their resolutions. Instead of being discouraged by these statistics, it’s important to focus on concrete strategies that will land you in that 9%. 

So, with the new year fast approaching, let’s look at a few different strategies for embracing change and achieving this year’s resolutions.

Limit Your Resolutions 

While it may be tempting to sit down and churn out a three-page list of all the ways you want to improve your life, creating too many resolutions is a recipe for disaster. Between school, work, maintaining a social life, family commitments and all the other things we have on our plates, our brains can only focus on so much. This makes effectively establishing new habits daunting. Despite the popular myth that it only takes 21 days to develop a habit, practices that don’t provide immediate positive results, such as going to the gym or quitting vaping, often take much longer to establish. Therefore, many psychologists recommend picking just one goal to focus your time and effort on. Personally, however, I like to make two-to-three different resolutions so that I can focus each one on a separate area of my life. Typically, I do one goal related to improving my health, one related to my education and one related to improving my social life. Whether you focus on one resolution or curate a select few, it’s essential to think critically about how many resolutions you can follow through with.

Make Your Resolution(s) “SMART”

If your major is anywhere within the realm of communications or business, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the process of creating SMART objectives. Although this goal-setting framework is not just applicable in a corporate setting, it’s essential in formulating any goal, including New Year’s resolutions. For those that aren’t already familiar with the concept, SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, and each of these words represents a particular criterion for making an effective goal. 

To explain how to formulate a SMART objective, let’s consider wanting to improve your grades. Saying “I want to improve my grades” is not specific, making you less likely to achieve it. Instead, try including specific steps and considering why and when you want to accomplish it. However, saying, “I want to increase my GPA by 0.2% by setting aside four additional hours to study and attend tutoring each week,” is specific. The goal is measurable because instead of simply “wanting to increase” your GPA, you’ve stated a reasonable numerical value by which you want to increase it. Whether or not it’s attainable depends on you, so take time to evaluate your past performance and decide what’s truly possible for you. If 0.2% feels a little ambitious, take it down to 0.15%. To make it relevant, ask yourself, “why is setting this goal important?” Perhaps you come up with: “I want to increase my GPA by 0.2% by setting aside four additional hours to study and attend tutoring each week because this will help me get into a good graduate school.” Finally, it’s time to make it time-bound by adding a date to complete the goal; for New Year’s resolutions, it will likely be by the end of 2023. Our completed goal should look something like this: “I want to increase my GPA by 0.2% by the end of Fall 2023 by setting aside four additional hours to study and attend tutoring each week because this will help me get into a good graduate school.” 

Approach-Oriented Versus Avoidance-Oriented Resolutions 

In one study published in 2020, researchers found that participants were more likely to achieve their resolutions if they were approach-oriented, which emphasizes learning and improving, such as “I want to learn how to improve my mental health in 2023.” On the other hand, an avoidance-oriented approach centers on evading something, such as “I don’t want to be stressed in 2023.” The study’s results found that participants with approach-oriented resolutions achieved them 58.9% of the time, whereas those with avoidance-oriented goals achieved them 47.1% of the time (11.8% difference). 

This is not to say that avoidance-oriented resolutions are always less effective. On the contrary, in some areas, such as trying to quit a bad habit, avoidance-centered goals might be more effective. For example, a 2010 study found that those with more avoidance-oriented goals were more likely to succeed in the case of individuals trying to quit smoking. The study suggests that the participants’ desire to “cure a current negative state” was more motivating than focusing on a positive approach-oriented goal.

Don’t Forget to Plan and Research 

You will need more than just jotting down your resolutions on the evening of Dec. 31 to ensure success. The best New Year’s resolutions are the ones you spend a couple of weeks researching and planning. Think about the obstacles you’ll encounter and plan for how to face them. Research how others have tackled similar goals and learn from their mistakes. 

While it’s impossible to know exactly what 2023 will bring (I certainly didn’t predict the emergence of a global pandemic in 2019), setting New Year’s resolutions is a great way to evaluate where you’re at and come up with concrete ways to improve. Even if you don’t achieve your resolution(s), there’s a good chance that putting effort into making and attempting them will benefit you anyways.