Is your typical New Year’s resolution a long-forgotten memory once Valentine’s Day rolls around? Take heart -- you’re in good company. Depending on whom you believe, somewhere between 80 to 92 percent of us fail to follow through on our annual efforts to improve our lives.
Why do we fail? Sometimes we reach too high and set impossible goals for ourselves. Some of us can’t sustain the motivation, or we buckle under the inevitable stress and discomfort that change brings. We self-sabotage, we lose faith in ourselves, and then we bail out.
Yet those who have been successful at keeping New Year’s resolutions remind us that it takes daily self-discipline. Feeling low on that quality? Don’t worry. You’re not born with self-discipline, but you can develop it just like a muscle – by challenging yourself daily in small but significant ways. Here are some professional tips to achieve this:
Keep it simple; start small. Build on small victories and successes. As Forbes contributor, Dan Diamond writes, “Essentially, shooting for the moon can be so psychologically daunting, you end up failing to launch in the first place.” Don’t get hung up on the idea that bigger is better.
Make it tangible. Tie every goal to an achievable, specific metric. John Norcross of the University of Scranton advises, "We say if you can't measure it, it's not a very good resolution because vague goals beget vague resolutions.”
Lastly, be accountable to a buddy. Partner up with someone to support you when your willpower begins to wane.
Now that you’ve got the secret recipe for resolution success, which of the following sounds like something you can embrace for the next year?
1) Put your physical well-being first. Commit to a specific number of hours of sleep every night. Make the number firm but doable, and stick with it, regardless of social temptations. Same with exercise. How many times a week will you work out and for how long? Whatever your answer, make the goal specific and measurable so you can make adjustments week to week for success.
Upgrade your diet by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether it’s the Freshman 15 or the Senior Seven, managing your food intake can not only keep you mentally sharper, but you also won't be so inclined to pack on college pounds.
2) Practice saying “no.” Although this is difficult, it’s going to make all those priorities above, in #1, a lot easier. Use your time wisely and even selfishly. Don’t worry about not being liked or hurting other people’s feelings. Put your well-being and scholastic success at the top of your daily to-do list, and let the non-essentials fall away.
3) Step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself with a new experience once a month. Attend a seminar on a topic you find hard to understand. Go to a cultural event that’s the last place friends expect to find you. Learn a new word from the dictionary every week. Whatever you pick, you might just surprise yourself by how much you enjoy it and how much you learn about yourself in the process. Learning to step outside of your safe zone will also help you in your future career.
4) Banish procrastination. Managing your time better tamps down your stress levels. You won’t have to rush, and you aren’t always panicked about “that paper due in the morning.” Start studying for exams a few days earlier than usual. Finish that paper two days before it’s due. You’ll sleep better, feel better, and probably get better grades.
5) Pay it forward. Find one charitable or community cause that you’re passionate about, and block out one day a month to volunteer. If you’re good with your hands, build houses with Habitat for Humanity. If dogs are your thing, spend an afternoon giving shelter pets a chance to stretch their legs outdoors. There are endless ways to serve, and you’ll feel pretty darn good about yourself at the same time.
6) Nurture lifelong relationships. Keep in touch with friends and family back home. Resolve to call your parents and/or siblings once a month, just to check in. College life can be all-consuming, but it comes to an end quickly. The relationships you maintain with the non-college people in your life are valuable ones that will continue to support you throughout your career and family-building years.
7) Cultivate new relationships. Start creating traditions and rituals with your college friends that keep you close once graduation pulls you time zones away from each other. Maybe it’s an annual weekend of seaside fun in the sun, or a perhaps a winter ski trip. Agree to meet up at a designated time for a specific purpose so you have something you can all look forward to.
8) Craft a five-year plan. List out your scholastic and professional goals and dreams, but remember to leave room for romance, travel, hobbies, and other things that lift your spirits and nourish your soul. Start by resolving to make this year your most memorable college year of all!
See, New Year’s resolutions don’t have to be difficult or boring. It’s more about what you want to achieve. If you’d like to learn more about how University of the Cumberlands supports its students in pursuing a “life more abundant”, we’d love to share our liberal arts programs with you. We strive for excellence in all our endeavors, and empower our students who share this same dedication.