A new year inevitably brings with it a slew of people making New Year’s resolutions, either in an attempt to expel bad habits or in an effort to improve their lives. But is the new year really worth all the hype that surrounds it?
For students, there are two types of new year. The first is the traditional, January 1st New Year, while the other is the beginning of a new academic year. Many students make the bulk of their resolutions on September 1st, and use January as a time to reattempt their (usually) failed efforts.
According to Orla Hayes, an Arts student, failure is inevitable for most resolutions: “There hasn’t been a year where I’ve stuck by resolutions, so I’ve made some that are realistic [this year]. I know [that will keep me] disciplined enough to stay motivated.”
And realism is most definitely the key to successful resolutions. Many students generalise, and make sweeping declarations about the things they plan to achieve. Attending every lecture, studying for two hours every night, and actually reading the additional texts for a module are all resolutions most students are guilty of making at one stage or another.
Usually, such dramatic plans for change come after difficult exams, or once the deadline for an important assignment passes, and we promise ourselves we won’t see a repeat performance in semester two.
But making too broad a resolution is a recipe for disaster and eventual failure. Be realistic in your goals. If you didn’t manage to even read the required texts in the first semester, how can you possibly hope to read the additional articles? Resolutions that take too much time and effort will be given up before they even truly start.
Hayes believes people make resolutions for the same general reasons each year. “I guess people view the new year as a clean slate because it’s the one time of the year everyone takes time to think about new resolutions and changes that can be made.
“Sometimes people reflect on the past when a new year is approaching and think how they can change aspects of themselves or life in general. For some people, they can let go of regrets…and look forward to new beginnings.”
For students, January is the perfect time to start afresh, according to Student Adviser Aisling O’Grady. “For the most part, students will be taking new modules and starting off again with a clean slate, new lecturers, and the opportunity to get the best possible grades. If things have gone wrong in the past, you can learn from your mistakes and do things differently.”
All this being said, sometimes people make a resolution simply because they feel like they have to. O’Grady explains that “part of why we don’t keep our resolutions is because we make them according to the notion that we should. It’s better to commit to something based on your desire and ability to do so and not on some silly new year custom.
Hayes agrees, claiming that, “In previous years, I’ve made so many resolutions that I didn’t keep…When you’re not 100% committed it’s so much easier to break them.”
Staying motivated is the key to success, especially for students. A lot of our goals may be academically focused, meaning it’s easy to lose interest quickly or just give up. According to O’Grady,“It’s a matter or prioritising, having good time management skills, and being flexible whilst still meeting your goals. Plan for the semester, and then plan for each week, but it’s important to allow for some deviations from the plan.”
Motivation, or lack thereof, can run a lot deeper than pure lack of interest for some people. “Take some time to reflect on why you might feel [unmotivated]. Is it due to the difficulty of the task? Or are there other issues?” O’Grady advises. “Trying to give some meaning to a feeling of low motivation can help…And you can always talk to a member of staff or fellow student.”
Of course, most of the student population have already made their academic resolutions for 2014, and will hopefully stay motivated long enough to complete them. But UCD offers many other activities and opportunities for students looking for a different type of resolution.
Refreshers day, taking place on Wednesday, January 29th, provides another opportunity to join one of the many clubs and societies in UCD. Students will have another chance to take up a new sport or join a society relating to their degree subject or an outside area of interest.
Many schools will also start recruiting peer mentors in the coming months, offering students from all years the opportunity to help and guide incoming first years in September 2014.
So no matter whether or not you make a resolution, it’s never too late to make a change.