New year, same me: Is it possible to achieve your new year’s resolution?

For many, the onset of a new year marks something much bigger than 23 years of the third millennium, but rather a clean slate. 

Yet, with over 80 percent of individuals regularly failing to meet their goals and 64 percent quitting after the first month, it begs whether these yearly resolutions were built to last.

Dating back to the ancient Babylonians over 4,000 years ago, new year’s resolutions began as a way for individuals to make vows with their gods regarding paying back debts or returning borrowed objects. Furthermore, it was believed that if Babylonians kept their promises to their deities, the gods would aid them the following year.

While the purpose of the new year’s resolution may have shifted over the years, the concept of holding oneself accountable for the year remains. 

Joseph Ferrari, Vincent de Paul professor of Psychology and deacon, believes that for individuals to achieve their goals, they must shift their focus. 

“New year’s resolutions are often always about ourselves, such as losing weight or exercising more,” Ferrari said. “As Saint Vincent would try to teach us, we need to focus on other people.” 

From volunteering in a nearby community to embracing kind gestures like giving up your seat on the train to someone else or returning a dropped item to its owner, acts of compassion can increase happiness and overall social connectedness. 

Furthermore, many individuals possess the wrong mindset when setting resolutions for the new year. 

“Be realistic, you’re much more likely to achieve a smaller resolution than a lofty one,” Ferrari said. “Too often people think it [their resolution] has to be 100 percent completed or else they’ve failed. It’s a bad mentality.”

However, failure does not have to equate to disappointment or personal worth. 

“People want life to be easy, they want to always be successful and always reach 100 percent of their goal. But we need failure to help us grow,” Ferrari said. 

For junior Lauren Lantz, resolutions signify a way to create time for oneself and prioritize hobbies, especially during the hecticness of the school year. 

“I never really make new year’s goals but this year I made some mental health goals and art goals,” Lantz said. “I want to do something hands-on and artistic at least once a week. If I stick to this goal, it will be an act of self-care which will help my mental health in the long run.” 

Often, new year’s resolutions are marketed as a way of improving oneself physically through exercise and eating healthier. Despite not being inherently wrong, these goals can lead to stress or negative thought patterns since many will blame themselves for not possessing enough willpower to achieve them.

“We shouldn’t have to wait until a new calendar year to make positive changes in our lives,” Lantz said. “When the new year does come around, it’s great to reflect on how you can be more kind and loving to yourself and others but setting big expectations for yourself can lead to harmful emotions if you don’t fulfill them.”

Junior Lily Kate Somers believes resolutions can promote false illusions of simplicity and ease for individuals making fundamental changes to their lives.

“I think the notion of the new year makes it seem like everything will be an easy switch and that healthy behaviors will follow with ease,” Somers said. “I think that’s psychologically unrealistic and can lead to feelings of failure and self-hatred.”

 Furthermore, when extensive alterations are made to an individual’s routine, they may feel pressure when it comes to keeping their goal, causing a spike in cortisol levels. Stress can manifest in various health problems, from high blood pressure to headaches and irritability when not maintained.

“We spend so much time talking about what we want to do better that we forget to acknowledge and appreciate last year’s success. When our new year starts with comparison and self-hatred, any slip up in our resolution can be very painful to deal with,” Somers said.

While it is unlikely that there will ever be a concrete answer to whether or not new year’s resolutions are inherently good or bad, it is clear that setting small goals throughout the year can be beneficial. Even if they are not wholly achievable, victory can still be found in failure.

“Everybody only wants sunny days in their life,but you need rain for things to grow,” Ferrari said.