Spring semester: UA students get a fresh start

Kara Hemphill

I hate to remind everyone, but 2013 has been upon us for several weeks, and that means new classes, breaking the habit of dating things “2012”, and resolutions hanging over your head.

First of all, if you have not yet turned in a check, form, or assignment with “January 2012” written on it, I congratulate you. You have already overcome one of the new year’s great challenges.

However, remembering the correct year is only the first of many challenges that come our way when the clock strikes twelve on Dec. 31. Which brings me to a question: How are your New Year’s resolutions coming?

It seems that every year we spend the last weeks of one year coming up with resolutions for the new one, and then forget about them as soon as the holidays are over. With work and school starting again and a fresh batch of responsibilities stacking up, it can be hard to even remember what you resolved to do, let alone follow through with anything.

On the other hand, the start of a new year – and a new semester – provides the perfect time to set new goals. You just need to take the right approach and dig deep to find your will power.

Coming up with a resolution or two in the first place is enough of a sign that you want to change or improve something. Even the most common resolutions, like getting healthier or getting better grades, can make a big difference.

If you didn’t come up with a resolution, I don’t think that’s a problem. Just because Jan. 1 is a popular and convenient time to set goals doesn’t mean it’s the only time,
or even the best one, to do so.

As a matter of fact, given that most people (88 percent, according a study conducted by University Bristol) fail to go through with their resolutions shows that the whole practice is a bit pointless. And no wonder, 365 days, which are inevitably filled with unexpected challenges and everyday stress, is a long time to remember one broad goal you made while you were lounging around in your pajamas surfing the Internet.

These days, it seems we’re all about grandeur and instant gratification, but I think we could all benefit from scaling it back a little: starting small and working our way up.

First and foremost, we need to drop the illusion that we’re all perfect. Studies show that sharing goals with friends and family can lead to higher success rates.

Secondly, pick something reasonable that is in your own hands. You can’t accomplish something that is partially or completely out of your control, like rate of pay or a health condition.

Make improvements, but don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Instead of saying, “I want to make $10 an hour by the end of the year,” say, “I’m going to take more initiative at work and then talk to my boss about a raise.”

After you’ve figured out your resolution, try to break things down into manageable chunks. I don’t know anyone who picks up a steak and tries to eat it whole. Why do the equivalent when trying to accomplish goals?

Making small, measurable goals within shorter time periods provides a sense of accomplishment and a better setting in which to achieve things. Plus, it forces you to face your resolution instead of putting it off until you forget about it.

For example, if you’re trying to break a bad habit, try to spend a week being mindful of what causes it. Maybe you bite your nails when you’re nervous, or pull your hair when you’re thinking. The next week, notice when you do it and try to find a more positive habit to replace it with. Then utilize the more positive behavior, and so on.

If you don’t accomplish what you want to, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, ask yourself what went wrong and how to make it better next time. Make a mini-resolution to improve it the next week. Conversely, if you succeed in your goals, reward yourself. Remember how it felt and use it as motivation for the next step.

Once you develop and implement a method, it will start to become second nature, and I promise it won’t seem as complicated as it
does now.

Regardless of whether you’d made any resolutions before you read this, I encourage you to give it a try. With the right tools and the right mindset, you never know what you might accomplish.