The #1 Way Students Can Set a New Year’s Resolution (and Actually Keep It)

Many people start the new year honestly intending to improve on some aspect of their lives. “This year I’m going to go back to school,” or “This year I’m going to get a new job.” Data suggests that 47% of people who set resolutions aim for self-improvement related to education and learning [1], including going […]

To Put This in Context:

Only 8% of Americans actually achieve their new year’s resolutions. [1] If you’re one of the other 92%, learn how you can set your resolution in a way that leads to success in 2017 and beyond.

Many people start the new year honestly intending to improve on some aspect of their lives. “This year I’m going to go back to school,” or “This year I’m going to get a new job.” Data suggests that 47% of people who set resolutions aim for self-improvement related to education and learning [1], including going back to school or finally finishing a degree.

However, just 8% of Americans are successful with their new year’s resolutions. [1] But why? And, more importantly, how can you do better?

Why Your New Year’s Resolution Doesn’t Get Resolved

There is a lot of research into why our new year’s resolutions just don’t stick. According to Time magazine, the top 10 commonly broken resolutions include many that will sound familiar to most people, including to lose weight and get fit, to travel to new places, and to learn something new, be it through obtaining a degree or mastering a new skill. [2]

Students, like other resolution setters, could be missing the boat on their goals because of a phenomenon called social reality. Research claims that many resolutions fail because people like to boast about their newly set goals, and the simple act of sharing their goals with the world creates a false sense of accomplishment toward those goals. Therefore, this social reality — the feeling that sharing a goal socially creates a sense that the goal is now a reality — can lead to little or no actual progress. [3]

Other research, from the American Psychological Association, lends to a situation many of us feel. Once we fall behind or begin to see results wane, the anxiety of not making progress becomes a demotivator against achieving further results. [4]

However, there is a trick to setting goals that are less prone to the social reality effect and less likely to cause debilitating anxiety.

The #1 Trick to Setting a New Year’s Resolution You’ll Actually Keep

School-Focused Resolutions Hit Top 10 Resolution List

As a student, you are very busy, and adding another task with a deadline can be daunting, even if goal-setting is key to achieving your objective.

So, what’s the best way you can set a resolution you can stick to? Stop setting a list of resolutions.

The truth is, the longer the list, the more detailed the plan, the harder your resolution is to keep track of and achieve. The American Psychological Association states that the best way to change behavior is to start small and change one thing at a time.

The takeaway?

Choose a one-word resolution.

This technique is being adopted by millennials in the “My One Word” movement, started by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen. [5]

Your one-word resolution revolves around a theme that encompasses all of the things you’d like to do, is easier to remember and manage, and allows for flexibility and the unexpected turns that life throws your way.

Some choice words for the new year could be:

  • Learn
  • Transform
  • Health
  • Selflessness
  • Balance
  • Perseverance

When your goal is broad, it takes a little more thought in the beginning, but should be more achievable down the road. The first thing you could do is write out your word, then make a quick list of ideas that could help you achieve that goal.

Make Your New Year’s Resolution Goal Selflessness

For those who want to Learn, earning a degree online is a great way to make a resolution you can actually keep. Start the year by researching degree programs and finding one that fits in your schedule. Make a list of these programs and think about when would be the right time to start. Check each program’s start dates and write these on your calendar. Contact the school and get more details. Beyond providing you with information, you’ll be surprised how eager their advisors are to help you stay on track and help with gathering the documentation you need to get enrolled. As you go through your year, remember this start date and begin working toward it.

Along the same lines, many who choose the word Transform may be faced with a career that is stagnant or unfulfilling. With this realization, it’s advantageous to align your transformation goal with going back to school. Then, start to investigate the ways you can transform not just this year but your entire future through an online degree program that promotes balance with your current career. (For tips on choosing online programs, go here.)

The key to making and keeping a resolution that you’ll achieve is to keep it open.

As the year progresses, you should focus on the word that you chose to represent your goal. Think back to it as you make decisions, and determine the proper response with your goal in mind. This will help you lose the rigidity, the anxiety, and — hopefully — the tendency to fail.

Common Resolutions for Students That Can Be Turned into One-Word Wonders

According to USA Today, some of the smartest new year’s resolutions for college students include [6]:

  • Getting to Class on Time
  • Taking Advantage of Office Hours
  • Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

Words that could encompass these and other school-related goals include “achieve,” “challenge,” or “commit.”

Steps to Take Today to Achieve Your 2017 Resolution

Write Down Your New Year’s Resolutions!

Step 1: Sit and write down three things that went well this year and three that did not, including things with your schooling or attempts to boost your education.

Step 2: Next to each item, write why it was a highlight, or note why it was a lowlight that you’d like to avoid seeing repeated next year.

Step 3: Look for patterns. Does any word stand out in Step 2, or do any negative themes appear that have one-word, positive solutions?

Step 4: Write it down. Write that one word on your mirror, notebook, or phone — wherever you need it to be so it is top of mind. Studies from Dominican University in California show that committing a goal to writing could make you 42% more likely to achieve it. [7]

Final Food for Thought

There are things we constantly do to ourselves that ensure failure. Chief among them are being too hard on ourselves and holding ourselves to unrealistic standards. Don’t do that this year.

Whatever your one-word wonder resolution is, don’t forget to appreciate yourself and do something that will positively set you up for success now and in years to come. If that next step is going back to school and completing your degree, let the Context team help you.

What Is Your One-Word Wonder?

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Alyssa Runner

Alyssa Runner is a marketing creative who just happened to fall in love with all things metrics-driven. A leader in data-driven marketing initiatives, incessant testing, and building up teams who find new visions of success, she focuses on driving great businesses and universities their best prospects. With a bachelor’s in Advertising and Public Relations and a master’s in Public Administration, her most important degree is from the school of hard knocks, learning from years of working in the education realm with professors, course creators, and students alike.