Opinion: Self-improvement does not end at goal setting

Andrea Hefferan | Staff Writer

If I had a dollar for every time I failed a New Year’s resolution, I would be rich.

The start of a new year inspires us to be better versions of ourselves. “New year, new me” is a common sentiment throughout social media. We all strive to be someone else, someone skinnier, prettier, more athletic. The gym becomes crowded with people wanting to get fit, the diets begin and we insist that this year will finally be “our year.”

But right around now, late January, the gym has emptied, the diets have been abandoned and we all write off this upcoming year as just another failure. Maybe next year, we say; maybe then we will truly be motivated to change.

There is a reason New Year’s resolutions do not work. It is not for lack of want but lack of effort. It is easy to say we want to lose weight, but it is much harder to pass up that pizza for a salad. We say we will make time to go to the gym every week, but suddenly it is the weekend and we realize we would rather stay home and sleep in.

A change of the calendar may rekindle all of those forgotten goals, but it will not change our schedule. It will not affect our lifestyle. We are the only ones who can do that, and before implementing our resolutions we must have the time and means to do so.

Setting goals is important. It gives us incentive and a direction. Sharing those goals is even more important in order to hold us accountable for them. However, that is not the end of the road. In fact, that is just the very first step on a long road towards self-improvement.

Unfortunately, this first step is where most of us stop. We think it is enough to tell the world we will be better, then make excuses for not being able to accomplish what we said we would. If we truly wanted to become better people, we would not wait until a new year to suddenly remember everything we wish we were. We would be working hard every day, right now, to reach success. A New Year’s resolution is flimsy statement with little support. We all try to uphold it for a while, but once we fail, we let it go.

Another problem is that we do not focus on one goal. We have many things we want to accomplish in this year, of course, but we attempt to tackle everything all at once. Then, we eventually get frustrated and give up on all of them. We are impatient and want to get everything done in one fell swoop.

These kinds of things take time. Fee.org says it takes around 21 days to form a habit. For a lot of us, that is 20 days too long. Our instant gratification society expects speedy results. If we do not get what we want immediately, we give up on it. We must focus on a single goal and give it our all. Once we have achieved it, we can add something else from our list. More importantly, we must understand that we cannot assume our goals will be instantly met. Unfortunately, we see these resolutions as a quick fix to all of our problems, but rapidly become disillusioned.

You may be wondering if all of this means that we should ditch these pesky resolutions altogether. I do not think we should. Having a goal for yourself is important, and if the new year inspires you to become an A-list goal setter, then more power to you.

The more important issue is keeping the goal. Make a plan and stick to it. Stop writing wordy resolutions and actually do something to make your goal happen. And it takes time to see the results, so be willing to wait. Do not let failure stop you; keep going until you succeed. It does not have to be January first for you to set a goal.

Look out 2018, because this is going to be our year.