Happy New Year, Westfield High School! 2018 is behind you, and you’re ready for 2019. You’ve probably come up with a bunch of things to improve on this year, haven’t you? Last year being far from perfect, you’ve probably started thinking about resolutions. Perhaps it’s to exercise more, get better grades or even be a better person overall. People being far from perfect, we are sure there’s an extensive array of improvements we can make. With the start of the New Year, you may have a newfound resolve to make these improvements and fix these mistakes. However, before we get into that, we just want you to take a moment and think back to 2018. Specifically, January 1st. Remember your resolution last year? Probably not. About 80 percent of all New Year’s resolutions fail by February . Chew on that.
Regardless of that statistic, or the outcome of last year, the fact is that you have goals to accomplish this year, and you are not going to commit the same follies of last year. Where do you start? It's all in the mindset and motivation that you maintain towards your goals. You have to understand where your resolutions go wrong before you can make them happen, and most importantly, you have to ensure your goals are clear.
The main reason resolutions fail is that they’re unclear, overwhelming, discouraging or too difficult. Unclearness stems from vague statements like “I’m going to exercise” or “I want to make friends.” They don’t have any final destination. When will you exercise? How much? How many friends will you make and when? Overwhelming goals stem from society’s pressures to improve quickly. Posts on Instagram or Snapchat of people following through with their resolutions only lead to stress and “dropping out” of a “resolution race” of sorts.
Discouragement stems from our ingrained impatience. Setting a goal for something like going to bed earlier may not immediately cause you to jump out of bed every morning and waltz into school with excitement. The lack of instant results often drives people to feel like their resolution is pointless. Finally, difficulty stems from lack of motivation. Cheat days or a lack of interest leads to failure of these long-term goals.
Fortunately, there are various ways to combat these inhibitions and lead us to 2019 with newfound hope and more importantly, results. One of these methods is crafting a goal with care. Have you heard of SMART goals? These were a keystone of Freshman year health education. While the focus may have been on exercise specific goals, and the original purpose may have been for management, the set of rules is still applicable to any type of objective . Let’s start with the basic goal, “I’m going to get better grades.”
S is for specific. Your goal has to have more aspects to consider than just an objective end goal. Restrictions lead to creativity and, likewise, success. Stating, “I’m going to get all A’s and B’s for at least two trimesters this year” is a better start.
M is for measurable. Goals have to have progress you can see, not just “feel in your soul.” Following up with your goals is key. For our example of earning better grades, consider tracking daily grades on Powerschool to ensure you’re maintaining your goal, and if you’re not, follow up as quickly as possible.
A is for achievable. You can’t make steps too fast in your progress. If you know something isn’t going to work for you, such as getting perfect 100s in every class, then don’t give yourself a headache trying to strain so high. Shoot for something like A’s and B’s if that’s within your range.
R is for relevant. Do you care about this goal? If not, then choose something else. If you’re already satisfied with how school is going, then don’t concern yourself with it. Stress only steers you away from ultimate success.
T, finally, is for time-bound. This means setting smaller goals along the way, and following through even when you’ve reached the deadline of your goal. Saying, “I’m going to study at least 15 minutes for each quiz this year” is a positive step you can make along the way.
Along with making and maintaining SMART goals, you can also plan ahead to execute your goals. Think long-term on what makes you do what you don’t want to do. It’s all based on a cue-routine-reward system . In the case of good grades, perhaps the problem is you don’t study as much as you want. You can replace a bad habit with a good one, killing two birds with one stone. In this system, your cue is you get bored while studying. Your routine is you stop studying. Your reward is you’re not bored anymore. Taking a new approach to the habit helps build up a new, positive one.
Instead of stopping studying altogether, study for twenty minutes and then take a five minute break, and return as your new habit. The effectiveness of this comes from the fact that it doesn’t punish you for studying. You get a break, alleviate boredom, and implement studying back into your habit. Through continual concentration on this goal, it will come naturally over time. And it doesn’t and shouldn’t be immediate. Start with studying for 10 minutes, take a 10 minute break, and work up to the goal over time to reduce discouragement.
Congratulations! You’ve made it through How to Make a Resolution 101! You’re now certified to make a goal. Obviously goals are hard, and often you’re going to feel hopeless along the way, but with your newly acquired skills and mindset, these resolutions you’re so excited to fulfill now have a chance at staying by your side this new year. Goals aren’t something to make us feel bad about ourselves; they are our call to improve to be the best we can. Continual perusal of these will only mold us into the best person we can be. 2019 better watch out because Westfield is going to have an army of new-and-improved people out to shape it.
Sincerely, Tommy and Erin
1. Ali, Shainna. “Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail.” Psychology Today, 5 Dec 2018. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201812/why-new-years-resolutions-fail.
2. Miller, Jen A. “How to Make (and Keep) a New Year’s Resolution.” The New York Times, https://www.nytimes.com/guides/smarterliving/resolution-ideas.