Queen's University Logo
--IMPORTANT NOTICE-- Up-to-date COVID-19 information Click Here

New Year’s Resolutions Don’t Have to be Scary

By Zoe Clarke, 2nd year Bio/Music student

Well, it’s that time of year – mid-January – where I’m sure many of you (including myself) are trying desperately hard to hold onto those New Year’s resolutions that you made just a mere two weeks ago. It seemed so exciting then, didn’t it? “New year, new you,” am I right?! We challenge ourselves in all kinds of ways to think of how to make dramatic changes to our current ways of life.

Perhaps your first semester of university didn’t go so well, and you want to change that, so you’ve decided to double the amount of time you spend studying per week. In your head, you envision a brilliant, incredible, successful you who goes forward, aces those exams, and ends up with a whole whack-load of A+’s!

Armed with some sort of incredible vision, radiating positivity, you step out the door to embrace the world! The sun is shining and babies are laughing and heads are turning and – and you’ve just realized exactly how hard it is to maintain those unrealistic goals that you have set for yourself. And this is where you give up.


Don’t listen to that voice inside your head! Just because you have set an unrealistic goal doesn’t mean that this has become a dead-end to greatness. In fact, if you’re struggling at keeping some of those incredible goals at this time of year, now is the perfect time to reevaluate your goals and turn them into something SMART and achievable.

Here at Learning Strategies under Queen’s Student Academic Success Services, we encourage SMART goal setting which can be applied to anything you are trying to achieve, in any aspect of your life. By setting your sights on something “Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Bound,” you will have put yourself in a much better position to fulfill those New Year’s resolutions!

But what do these terms mean exactly? Well, when making a goal, you’ll want to make something specific. For instance, if you want to do better on an exam by studying more, don’t tell yourself that you are simply going to “study more than last year.” You’ll find that this type of goal is very hard to keep, as it is something that you can never really fully achieve and be satisfied about. Instead, look towards something more specific, such as planning on incorporating study time into your weekly schedule to ensure that you get a certain number of hours in per week.

This leads into the next idea: make the goal measureable. If you want to study more, change the word “more” into something you can actually obtain, such as three hours per class per week. This is something that you can easily check off on a list, and that you can therefore be motivated to complete.

Furthermore, when making these measurements and deciding on how you are going to better yourself, don’t sign yourself up for anything unrealistic. When your goals are attainable, you are less likely to give up on them, and more likely to want to incorporate them into your routine. A small change is better than no change, and you can always set your sights higher as your first goal becomes a habit.

Last but not least, put a time-line on your goals. Yes, it can be exciting wanting to implement some great, new habits for the new year, but telling yourself that you’re going to keep doing them for well… er… infinity?!? Can be quite intimidating!! Rather than trying to change your life forever, why not try to change it for a month and see how it goes? By then, you may have incorporated a great new habit into your life, and find yourself wanting to keep it up for another month! But by setting that initial time frame, you give yourself a point to look forward to, and also a chance in the future to reevaluate and change your plan if it’s just not working for you.

There! That wasn’t so hard now, was it? By setting a SMART goal, you’ve given yourself a goal to look forwarding to fulfilling in the New Year, rather than a goal you are going to dread trying to live up to.

I wish you the best of luck in 2017 – remember that the perfect time for a fresh start is now, and tomorrow, and the day after that! Every day is a new opportunity to begin the journey of becoming that person that you want to be. And it is possible. You can make it possible.


Photo courtesy of Jessica Lucia under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0.