New Year’s Resolutions: Time, Failure, and the Pursuit of Goal-Setting

New Year’s Eve was a cold, biting night, and all that the windows of my friend John’s basement let in were dark rolling hills and mountain tops. Contrary to most young adults’ New Year’s extravaganzas, my friends and I were calmly slumped on couches, Imageconversation between ourselves and Ryan Seacrest flourishing. The minute hand was inching its way up toward the 12, and I grew apprehensive of the year ahead and voiced that to my friends: “You guys… I don’t have a resolution yet. This is an issue.” My remark was answered with ironic looks and cynical laughter. Because, really, why do I need a resolution anyways?

According to a recent study by the University of Scranton, only 8% of New Year’s Resolutions are even successful. Why pursue a goal only to fail? In that same study, it was cited that a whopping 31% of resolutions are romantic relationship related, and I certainly don’t want to be the type of person who measures the success of her year off of another individual’s opinion of them. “Most resolutions are too ambiguous, anyways,” my friends argue, and maybe they’re right. Maybe resolving to “live life to its fullest” won’t really get me very far anyways.

But then there’s the statistic that I can’t turn my back on: “People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions”.

Maybe not everyone will attain their goal of losing 30 pounds this year, but they certainly learned how to eat healthier and exercise. Maybe the kid who resolved to get all A’s on his report card got a B, but didn’t he learn better study habits? Become a better writer? And maybe my 2013 goal of becoming a funnier person didn’t land me as the next Aziz Ansari, but I did learn how to let thingsImage go, how to take a joke, how to spend my time enjoying life rather than worrying about it. I didn’t change my life dramatically, but didn’t I at least try? And didn’t I change it for the better?

There is a method to goal setting that says an effective goal is time sensitive, one that is expected to take a month or 56 days or an entire year. To me, that’s what a New Year’s resolution is—a goal that you want to achieve within the following year. Kudos to those who want to do that. And to all the naysayers who argue that someone doesn’t need a new year per se to make a change in their life, I want to push back on that a little bit: there’s something to be said about a globally recognized day dedicated to yearly goal setting and yearly reflection. Maybe I can start my goals some random day in May, but maybe it’s more fun to do it when everyone else is doing it.

At the very least, a New Year’s resolution forces you to pinpoint what you want to do and to turn it into something concrete. Maybe you won’t achieve it. Maybe you’ll resolve to lose weight on January 1st, and come January 2nd you’re eating a cheese stick on the couch watching Keeping up with the Kardashians. But next time you have to set a goal in other parts of your life, you’ll know how to choose a realistic goal and how to articulate it.

This year I resolve to eat breakfast every morning. Not too aggressive of a goal, sure, but I think I’m good with it. I’ve been leaving the glory of Reese Puffs and Honey Nut Cheerios out of my life for too long and I resolve to spoil my taste buds with them each morning. Someone can argue that this won’t be too life-changing or me, but I can shrug it off knowing what New Year’s resolutions really mean to me. Sure, they might not be some insane, life-altering, experience, and I’ll probably fail. But their purpose goes beyond that and stretches toward the lesson of becoming a goal-oriented person, how to reflect on failure and success, and how to reach for something in life when it really counts.

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