It’s that time of the year again. The gym is filled to capacity, the library is surprisingly full and the rude classmate you’ve dealt with for the past three semesters is suddenly rather friendly. It’s a new year, a new semester and a new chance for people to change for the better — or at least for them to pretend to.
According to Forbes, just 8 percent of people are actually successful in keeping their New Year’s resolutions. This unimpressive follow-through rate is, in our opinion, a result of the unattainable goals people routinely set for themselves at the start of the new year.
Initially, we all have intentions that don’t appear to be insurmountable. We are able to look around at the other people in our lives and see them achieve the things we want — the things we think will make us happy — with ease. Our outside observations and lack of consideration for their natural talents, general lifestyle and personal history, make the goals we set look all too easy to achieve.
We start to think: If our roommate can go to the gym every day, why shouldn’t we be able to? If our sister got a 4.0 GPA when she went to UF, why shouldn’t we be able to do the same?
It’s great to get inspired by our friends and family, of course, but it’s important for us to keep in mind that everyone has their individual strengths and weaknesses.
For example, your roommate might make it look easy to go to the gym every day, but they might have a long history of daily exercise or more time to devote to fitness. Your sister might have gotten a 4.0 when she went to UF, but maybe she wasn’t as involved on campus as you are. We have to keep in mind everyone can’t be good at everything. In the same sense, your roommate might not be able to write as well as you can, and your sister might not be able to truly enjoy philanthropic work like you do.
When we try to become the people around us and mimic their successes, we not only set ourselves up for failure, but we miss out on a real opportunity to improve ourselves. In other words, we need to stop using the new year as an excuse to force ourselves to be something we aren’t and start using it to build upon what is already great about us. This year, instead of trying to tack on new traits and falsified interests with the start of the year, we need to try to focus on enhancing the already unique and admirable traits we possessed the year before.
We should set goals that incorporate things we already enjoy and focus on getting better at those things. Book lovers should set goals to read more books than they did the year before, not to get better grades in math. Runners should set goals to run faster paces or further distances than the year before, not to lift heavier weights.
This isn’t to say we shouldn’t recognize our weaknesses or try to improve them. It’s to say we should come to terms with the fact that we have them and celebrate our talents, rather than beat ourselves up over our failures.
When we improve upon what we are already good at, not only will we end the year more successfully than the one before, but we will likely end it happier as well. Instead of wasting several weeks or months pretending to love yoga or faking an interest in calculus, you’ll be nurturing your desires and spending time making yourself happy. After all, isn’t that what we really want? To end each year happier than the last?