New year, new goals, and how to accomplish them

Every new year, people around the world try and fail to commit to their New Year’s resolutions. Through careful planning and consistent effort, failed goals can be a thing of the past.

An animated man uses one hand to keep his other hand from reaching a donut.

Sometimes New Year's goals require difficult decisions and a lot of self-control. Graphic by Elle Dalsing.

Many people plan resolutions and projects to start the new year with renewed energy and to leave behind bad habits with the passing year. Despite this culture, it is no secret that many of these resolutions are never fulfilled. 

Why does this happen, and how can individuals accomplish their goals more effectively? 

SMART (specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-achievable) goals dictate that for goals to be achieved, certain conditions must be met. Individuals must be specific in their goal setting and determined to strive in their desires; however, individuals must also be ready to take into account why failure may happen, and how they can overcome it. Oftentimes, it is from these failures that people learn the most.

Here are common reasons for failure in goal setting and how they can be overcome: 

Too many goals at once

When asked about a challenge she experienced in goal setting, Megan Katelo, a UVU sophomore in criminal justice, mentioned that getting overly excited and setting too many resolutions has been a problem for her. She explained that on New Year’s Eve, she likes to make a vision board with her goals, but during the process, setting too many goals makes it difficult for her to achieve anything. 

As summarized in an article published by Forbes, “goal setting must be prescribed in doses, not as a standard remedy to increase productivity.” Setting too many new goals is not effective. It can create unnecessary stress that will make the goal-setting process more tedious and will most likely lead to abandonment or failure with the goals that have been set. Instead, students may try focusing on one or two goals at a time for a more focused and achievable experience.

Goals without purpose

Individuals can be more motivated in achieving their goals if they have a purpose for what they are trying to accomplish. For example, it is not enough to simply wish for a better job. Rather, one must reflect on the job one would like, take into account the qualities that make a good candidate, then relentlessly apply themselves to it. As a result of this difficult process, those who do not have a purpose in seeking a better job may struggle to find the resolution to work towards one.    

Likewise with goal setting, individuals should identify a strong purpose within themselves for setting each new resolution. As Brian Tracy, a motivational speaker stated in referencing Goal Setting Theory, “having a conscious, purposeful goal increases the likelihood that the things you desire will happen for you.” Thus before striving to achieve a new goal, students should always ensure they have a strong purpose in mind.

Unrealistic or unattainable goals

In many instances, individuals may set goals driven by desire and fantasy rather than reality. Though they may sound good on paper, these goals are unattainable, discouraging, and can even be damaging to one’s self-image and mental health, according to Alexa Mikhail of Fortune Well.  

To avoid this mistake, Isabella Barrera, a UVU sophmore in chemistry, recommends that students make a step-by-step guide to help achieve their long-term goals. By breaking down lofty goals into smaller, achievable segments, individuals can more easily track their progress and celebrate achieving their goals.

Most things worth doing require effort, and this is especially true of goal setting. By focusing on a limited number of goals at one time, having a clearly defined purpose, and setting realistic goals, students can ensure a more successful outcome from their resolutions this year. 

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