Resolve to Re-envision Your Year
Issue   |   Wed, 01/25/2012 - 02:31
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The reason New Year’s resolutions often fail is because they are too vague and unrealistic. Bonus resolution: drink less.

Ahh, January. A time when our self-confidence is, paradoxically, both at its highest and lowest. Those of us who are not cynics view ourselves as a bottomless pit of potential and promise — this will be the year, we think, when we do all the things we’ve been meaning to do and improve ourselves until we become a perfect, shining example of a human being! This will be the year to finally start working out and get that model body, to stop procrastinating on homework, to repair all our relationships!

To be realistic, I have seen enough of my new years resolutions die a short and speedy death. Even so, a part of me genuinely believes that I will be able to turn over a new leaf — heck, a whole pile of new leaves. This type of thinking is clearly flawed; we are essentially the same people on December 31 as we are on January 1, . If we really wanted to improve ourselves, we should be able to do it just as well on any other month of the year. However, just as we tell ourselves that we will start our essay at 9 p.m. instead of 8:37 p.m. because it is a more pleasing time and naively expect our productivity at 9 p.m. to suddenly soar to a superhuman level, we also think resolutions made in January hold a certain kind of magic.

January is also a time to evaluate the results of last year. Like the CEOs of our own lives, we try to evaluate the past year in quantifiable terms. Did we reach the goals we set for ourselves last January? What did we achieve in the past 365 days? Often, the results are less than satisfactory, leaving us feeling depressed and worthless. states that after six months, fewer than half the people who make New Year’s resolutions have stuck with them, and after a year, that number declines to around 10 percent.

This is a problem that I believe is attributable to the type of resolutions that people tend to make. According to, some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions of Americans are to: get fit, save money, get a better job, eat right, get a better education, drink less alcohol and quit smoking. These are all significant promises to oneself that cannot be achieved by the mere illusion that New Year’s resolutions have a higher chance of success. Further, failure to achieve these resolutions is utterly depressing.

Here is a list of resolutions that might actually make your year happier:

1.) Lessen your time on Facebook by at least 50 percent

Facebook is certainly useful for keeping in touch with people halfway across the world or stalking that cutie in your Philosophy class. According to a Utah Valley Univ. study, however, Facebook actually makes us less happy because it creates an artificial sense that other people have happier, better lives. Facebook photos generally depict smiling people having fun with their friends, because everyone smiles for the camera and people are selective about what they post on Facebook because they are very conscious of the fact that people will see and judge them by it. This good cheer may be inflated or false, but when others view the photos, they believe that this conveyed sense of happiness is real and makes them think that their friends are much happier than they are.

Also, doing this will give you so much more time to finish that Econ reading or finally spend time with that friend who you’ve been trying to make plans with for a month!

2.) Learn a new skill

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. Whether it is learning how to play the Uilleann pipes, picking up juggling — I’ve heard rumors that a new juggling club is in the process of being started at Amherst — or figuring out how to navigate the stock market, learning a new skill will help you feel like you achieved something at the end of the year (Hey, you may have gotten dumped, flunked all your classes and started balding prematurely, but at least you know how to bake macaroons!). A variation on this would be completing any sort of project. Composing a song, writing a research paper on Lady Gaga just because you’re interested, building a perfectly scaled model of the Taipei 101 out of matches — anything goes, as long as it’s something you genuinely want to do and will feel pride in when you finish.

3.) Befriend someone who thinks you’re wonderful

You know when you admire someone so much that it sometimes startles you that he or she is even friends with you since he or she is so obviously on a whole other level of awesome? Well, sometimes you need to be the one on the receiving end of the relationship. There is something extremely comforting about having a friend who still stubbornly believes that you are a great person even when you mess up big time. With your newfound skill from the previous resolution, this one shouldn’t be too hard to achieve!

Alternatively, if you feel like you have too many admirers already (lucky you!), then find someone who you think is at least three times more awesome than you are and befriend them. They’ll bring you down to earth when your ego inflates to the point of near-combustion.

4.) Record your life somewhere

Like taking photographs? Always wanted to keep a journal? This is the year! If you don’t keep track of all the things that make you happy on a day-to-day basis, it is surprisingly easy to look back and not be able to remember a single instance when you were happy. Although everything seems like a big deal as it’s happening, our memories are actually so imperfect that we often forget the little moments that gave us pleasure in the past. In addition, it is impossible for humans or any other animals to bring a memory to mind without altering it in some way. This means that each time we replay a memory in our minds, the repetition has the potential to alter them. Recording important memories using photographs or journal writing still has obvious imperfections, but looking back on them may provide insight about how you were feeling and thinking at the time, which using mental recall cannot provide.

January is a time for new beginnings, but often end up becoming a starting point for resolutions that trip up, stumble and ultimately fail. Change is hard, and one of the reasons resolutions have such a short life span is because people usually choose ones that are not only difficult but also have no end date. This is not to say that resolutions are worthless — January is a good reminder to reflect on the past year’s decisions in order to figure out how to achieve a higher level of happiness. Picking a few challenging but reasonable resolutions will hopefully make us feel more accomplished and content with our lives next January when we go through the same process again.

an alum (not verified) says:
Mon, 02/13/2012 - 19:47

Just don't use Facebook to achieve #4!