Do resolutions help or hurt you?

Courtesy of Thinkstock

Courtesy of Thinkstock

by Staff

New Year’s resolutions inspire people to change for the better, with the help of friends and family all doing the same thing.

Kelly Gardner, Staff Columnist

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions is nothing new. In fact, it dates back thousands of years to the Babylonian era. The Romans made resolutions to Janus, the god of new beginnings, promising to improve their actions in the coming year. If a Roman were to fail they blamed it on the will of Janus and were allowed to continue acting as they pleased until it came time to make resolutions again.

This situation sounds all too familiar. At the start of each year it’s traditional for people around the world to make New Year’s resolutions committing themselves to forge changes in their lives. Unfortunately, not long after these resolutions are made they are also often forgotten.

The start of a New Year is the perfect opportunity for people to evaluate their lives and put their priorities in check. With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it’s easy to lose sight of dreams and goals that we once had in mind. As one year comes to a close people can evaluate the things they succeeded with in the previous year and the areas they still need to improve on. While the New Year is certainly not the only time of the year to self-reflect, it’s certainly a great place to start.

[quote]Deciding to make a change can be simple and lighthearted or it can be difficult and drastic. The perks of choosing to make this change on New Year’s, however, are that you get to start the process of change along with everyone else.[/quote] A new year brings an extra dose of motivation. Numerous people are working toward new goals making it easy to find a buddy or even just a bit more self-restraint against old habits.

As I mentioned before, changes can be big or small. The most common resolutions associated with New Year’s are of course losing weight, saving more money, quitting smoking and volunteering more. There are a few others that top the list, but that doesn’t mean that one of these resolutions has to be yours. And it doesn’t mean that you have to commit to a drastic change. The whole point of making a New Year’s resolution is to improve yourself and the life that you live.

A more positive way to look at New Year’s resolutions may be choosing goals that are obtainable or goals that are not centered specifically on you. The majority of people who make New Year’s resolutions fail because their goals are unrealistic. Instead of saying, “I’m going to get in shape this year,” you might say, “I’m going to lose 5 pounds.” Setting a definitive end point makes the goal easier to obtain because you can track how close or far you are to reaching it. If a goal has no measurable outcome, you can’t be sure how successful you’ve been.

Other resolutions that are becoming more popular are focused on others. For example, some people may say, “I want to spend time with the whole family at least twice a week,” or, “I’m going to keep in touch with old friends once a month.” These goals still require a personal commitment to make them happen, but they benefit numerous people and the burden of success or failure isn’t placed solely on you. Even if you’re only able to get the whole family together once a week, this is a great step in the right direction and shouldn’t be considered a failure.

Failure is only a stepping-stone to success. Our culture has such a huge fear of failure that in some instances it’s the only thing holding us back from succeeding. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, only 8 percent of people who make them are actually successful. However, making any change in a positive direction, even a small one, is better than making no change at all. People should be giving themselves more props for the small improvements and stop beating themselves up so much about not reaching their exact goals. When it comes to succeeding with New Year’s resolutions, there’s nothing stopping any individual from being a part of that 8 percent. Winning the lottery is luck of the draw; achieving your New Year’s resolution is simply personal willpower and yours for the taking.

New Year’s resolutions are an excuse to postpone change and generally end in failure.

Madison Hopkins, Opinion Editor

Happy New Year, Aztecs. I hope you all had wonderful, relaxing winter breaks and have come back to San Diego State’s beautiful campus ready to thrive academically and personally. Many of you likely made New Year’s resolutions in an attempt to somehow improve your current state of living. And while I applaud those of you trying to challenge yourselves in some way, I’m not one of you. This year, I’m didn’t resolve to do anything.

Every year Dec. 31 rolls around and everyone lives it up as if it’s the last day of freedom before the imprisonment that is dedication to unrealistic goals and inevitable failure. And that’s exactly what it is—confinement. It’s stress and self-imposed pressure and frankly, it’s unnecessary. New Year’s resolutions are nothing more than socially-acceptable excuses to postpone making productive life changes until one random day of the year, as opposed to actively bettering yourself year-round. [quote]It’s the ultimate form of procrastination, and, like most things that we choose to procrastinate on, we generally don’t do as good a job as we would have liked.[/quote]

According to a study done by the University of Scranton, only about 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions actually achieve them. Psychology Today reported in 2011 that approximately 25 percent of people give up in the first week and another 40 percent quit in the first month. So after all the pressure, determination and resolve that this year is going to be different, for most people it never truly is. And for 92 percent of resolution-makers, all it really means is they will soon experience failure if they haven’t already. According to Psychology Today, a failure to meet one’s New Year’s resolutions can lead to increased self-doubt and depression. That’s not even considering the potential detrimental effects of falling off the New Year’s bandwagon.

Take, for example, a chain smoker. Let’s say this hypothetical person has been a regular smoker for years and is using the new year as an opportunity to finally do what he knows is right for his body. He gives it up for a few weeks, only to decide his stress is too much and he needs that one cigarette. Next thing you know, his self-esteem drops as a result of his disappointment in himself, and he turns to the same old activities he once did to make himself feel better—smoking. And just like that, what was once a positive goal to prove that change can happen is morphed into another personal letdown to beat oneself up over.

That same cycle is common for any harmful behavior. Those who vow to cut out unhealthy habits that they once used as coping mechanisms are walking a thin line between potential success and spiraling even more out of control than they once were.

The idea of putting so much pressure on one day to change one’s life creates an equal and opposite feeling of failure when it doesn’t work out. People who choose to change their lives for the better and accept that there may be ups and downs in the process are the ones with a true chance of success. Self-improvement needs to be an ongoing process to actually make any difference. Waiting around for the date to change to take control of your life is an easy way to escape responsibility for what you could be doing year-round, while also likely to result in added stress when unrealistic ambitions dissolve.

So for all of you Aztecs who made New Year’s resolutions this year, try not to take them so seriously. If you have already failed, try again with the idea to constantly do better, despite the failures. And for those of you still going strong, congratulations, but relax a bit. The only one putting pressure on you is yourself, and positive change doesn’t have to come at the expense of your sanity. As for me, I’ll continue to ignore the allure of a new year and a new me, and just focus on gradually working on the same old me I’ve always been.