In the build-up to New Year’s Eve 2023, I found myself struggling when faced with the question “what is my New Year’s resolution?”. It felt like I had to begin assessing “what did I not do right this year?” and “what about myself do I need to change?”. Something about that just didn’t feel right. 

During this time, I also became increasingly aware of the number of people who dislike New Year’s Eve, and I can’t help but wonder if this feeling of having to right all your wrongs in the impending new year contributes to that dislike. The concept of New Year’s resolutions is heavily involved with self-imposed demands for change which can sometimes carry a very heavy burden.

Contrastingly, the concept of goal setting can introduce a much-needed shift in our mindsets for the New Year. Goals transform our wants and aspirations into attainable targets. A 2023 survey in Forbes Health Magazine found a high prevalence of both physical and mental health-related resolutions for the new year. 

Despite this desire for wellness, the all-too-familiar scene of overcrowded gyms in January, followed by a gradual decline in attendance, illustrates the common fate of many health-related resolutions. Instead of having a resolution to exercise more, consider setting yourself the goal of completing a task such as the VHI Women’s Mini Marathon on the 2nd of June 2024. This goal not only offers a specific endpoint but also instils the journey with purpose and direction. It shifts the vague desire to “get fit” into an achievable target.

There are many practical ways to set and achieve goals for 2024 without facing those negative feelings associated with the pressure of resolutions. Here’s just a few:

1.     Evaluate Your Level of Control:

The first step in setting achievable goals is to ask yourself, “Is this something I can control?” Goals provide us with a structure and a plan, making it easier to recognise what elements of our lives we can influence. When faced with overwhelming situations and challenges, breaking them down into smaller, manageable steps can restore some control and calmness.

2.      Use More Positive Language:

Language plays a crucial role in shaping our mindset. By swapping the word “should” with “could,” when talking about what we plan to do, we eliminate the sense of blame and pressure associated with a task. This shift fosters a more positive and gentle approach to achieving our goals. For instance, replacing “I should go to the library” with “I could go to the library” helps remove the guilt we may feel about achieving this task.

3.   Be Realistic and Compassionate With Yourself:

It’s essential to approach goal setting realistically and compassionately. While it is important to be ambitious, setting the bar too high for ourselves may lead to unnecessary stress. It is important to recognise and celebrate all the little victories and not beat ourselves up for the speed at which we reach our goals.

4.     Embrace Setbacks:

Obstacles are an inevitable part of life. Instead of viewing setbacks as failures, try to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.

By choosing to set goals rather than make resolutions, we allow ourselves to grow in an exciting way without feeling this constant pressure to change. This mindset shift promotes a positive relationship with self-improvement, reducing the sense of failure that often accompanies abandoned New Year’s resolutions.

Set goals rather than make resolutions this January and enjoy a more productive year. Our ins for 2024 are positivity and personal growth, while guilt and abandoned resolutions are definitely out!

Saoirse Wilson – Arts and Lifestyle Editor