Take the right approach when making a New Year’s resolution

By Megan Rule | Staff Writer

New year means new you, right? Unfortunately for most, New Year’s resolutions are not as easy as they sound.

A Huffington Post study shows that only about 8 percent of people stick with their resolutions past the first week of January, even though almost half the population makes resolutions with the start of the new year.

“Many people will self-reflect and say, ‘There’s a part of my life I want to do better in,'” said Dr. Michael Scullin, assistant professor of psychology at Baylor. “The problem is that fewer than 10 percent of people will stick with it.”

Many common resolutions include exercising more, eating more leafy greens, being a better person and sleeping more – all of which are results of self actions. According to a recent LiveScience article, we make resolutions to focus on self-improvement.

Columbia, Tenn., sophomore Micaela Freeman has made resolutions in the past, but this year she set her goal to have more self-confidence and relax a bit more when things go out of her control.

“I am looking forward to seeing how my building confidence will affect how I run and relate with others,” Freeman said. “I think it’ll help a lot with my running. Confidence is hard, it always has been for me. I often find myself comparing myself with others.”

But why do people form such good intentions yet struggle to follow through? Scullin said when we form intentions, we make them too broad. Cognitive strategies show resolutions that are too general are harder to stick with.

The implementation intention, a theory from Dr. Peter M. Gollwitzer, a professor of psychology at New York University, is a way of changing a general goal to a specific one. Specifying the time and place that a resolution will occur makes it more likely to commit to. For example, instead of saying “I will exercise,” it is more effective to say, “When I finish class at 1:30 p.m., I will go to the Student Life Center to exercise.”

“It’s not that people forget to work out, but that they come up with excuses,” Scullin said. “Using a time or place intention sets an urge of commitment, and this can be done with a ‘when, then’ statement.”

Setting a plan shows dramatic changes in the proportion of people who stick with their resolutions, Scullin said. Form a specific plan to get the resolution done, otherwise it isn’t prioritized. Some students recognize this struggle, and therefore don’t make any resolutions.

“I didn’t make any resolutions because I couldn’t think of anything I really wanted to change or do differently. No one ever sticks to it anyway,” said Lorena junior Cody George. “I think people make them to try and change their life. It’s an easy starting-over time.”

Scullin speculated on the prevalence of resolutions as people get older, saying as we get older, we learn about healthy versus unhealthy behaviors, especially in college. Growing up, many Americans have a structured household, but in college we’re exposed to more unhealthy habits and social pressures, such as staying up late and eating more. This firsthand experience can lead to self-reflection and thus the realization that enough is enough and a change is necessary.

“Once people learn how to conceptualize time management, they can make that change at that moment,” Scullin said.