The start of a new year is often seen by students as the perfect time to gain a fresh start or turn a new page in a person’s life, which is why over half of the population continues to set New Year’s resolutions’ every year. This common tradition is a time for students to reflect on the past year and distinguish the changes in their lifestyles that they wish to carry throughout the following year- some as simple as spending more time with family and friends or as complex as getting out of debt. But as the new year surfaces the stigma associated with New Year’s resolutions and goals continues to stick.
“I’ve made a lot of resolutions over the past years and they always fail,” junior Lauren Nusbaum said. “I think it’s because I set really high expectations for myself.”
According to a study conducted by Australia over 42 percent of of 2,000 participants set themselves a new goal for their new year; however, almost two-thirds of those did not succeed with their primary goal because they set unrealistic goals or forget to keep track of their progress.
Timothy Pychyl, a professor of psychology at Carleton University in Canada, says that resolutions are a form of “cultural procrastination,” or an effort to reinvent oneself.
“My New Year’s resolution is to stay fit and in shape and to eat healthy. I’m going to make sure that I keep this resolution by staying motivated by my wonderful friends and going to the gym often,” sophomore Phoebe Ostlund said. “I have never really had resolutions before, so I decided this year would be a good year to start.”
The cause and effect relationship between failed resolutions is one of the key reasons new goals fail. An individual may think that if they lose weight, exercise more or increase their pay than his/her entire life will change for the better. When the apparent changes in life become regular many people begin to notice that the reality of the goals did not change the life entirely, thus the same person reverts back to old behaviors because they did not find what was initially seeked.
“People make resolutions as a way of motivating themselves,” Pychyl said to Psychology Today. “People aren’t ready to change their habits, particularly bad habits, and that accounts for the high failure rate.”
Making successful resolutions is essentially changing your own behaviors and in order to do that, one must change the way the brain thinks. Brain scientist Antonio Damasio and Joseph LeDoux have discovered that natural behaviors are created by thinking patterns that create natural memories. These memories then become a default basis for someone’s behavior when asked to make a decision. Trying to change the way the brain works by thinking “don’t do it” just strengthens the way the brain functions.
A desired change in one’s lifestyle requires someone to create neural pathways from new thinking habits.