Emmaus students, teachers make New Year’s resolutions

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Image courtesy of Canva.

Belle Lees, Deputy News Editor

With 2020 coming to end, many people are reflecting on this past year and considering what they want to accomplish in the new year. For some, this involves setting a specific New Year’s resolution. For others, it’s just a time to think about what things went well in the past year and what didn’t, and what they might want to consider doing differently, without any specific commitment to one goal. 

According to HISTORY, the first group believed to have a forerunner of the current New Year’s resolution was the Babylonians around 4,000 years ago. They celebrated the new year, which for them was in mid-March because that is when they planted their crops, with Akitu, a 12-day religious festival. During the festival, they declared their loyalty to their king and pledged to pay their debts. 

Though the celebration of the new year has definitely changed in many ways since then, the basic premise of making a commitment to change and do something to become a better person has stayed the same. For this year, here are a few of the resolutions of Emmaus High School students and teachers:

Freshman Caroline Shutts wants to “focus more on the present and less on the future.” Instead of worrying about the tasks she needs to accomplish later, she wants to spend more time enjoying the activities she is currently involved in. 

Math and computer science teacher Beth Stoudt vows to take better care of herself. 

“I need to walk away from the computer,” Stoudt says. “I’m hyper-focused on getting everything done, and I’m not exercising or eating right because I’m spending so much time in front of the computer. So my goal is to find a boundary and be able to put my health first because I’m not going to be able to help anyone else if I’m not helping me.”

Social studies teacher John Gallagher hopes to journal every day. He was inspired by biographies he read about stoic philosophers, who made journaling a priority. When they woke up, they would take 20 or 30 minutes to write down their thoughts and what they hoped to accomplish. At the end of the day, they would take time to reflect on how the day went and write down what they thought went well and what didn’t go well. 

Though Gallagher does have a New Year’s resolution for this year, he often does not set a specific goal. Instead, he looks at each day as a new chance to try to become a little better. 

“I understand why people do New Year’s resolutions: it’s the start of the new year, you want to make yourself better, all that stuff,” Gallagher explains. “But, I look at every morning that way. I try to make subtle changes every day… If I fall down with that today, I know tomorrow when I wake up I’ll get a chance to improve that.”  

Like Gallagher, Stoudt typically does not make a resolution. However, this year, making a resolution was important to her because she wants “to have a new slate and start fresh in 2021.”

When Stoudt did make resolutions, rather than it being something that she truly enjoyed doing, Stoudt felt like she was pressured into making a resolution because it was expected of her. “[I usually made resolutions because] everybody was like ‘what’s your New Year’s resolution?’ So, I felt like I had to come up with something,” Stoudt says. “Most of the time, it’s been the same thing: go to the gym [and] work out… It happens for a few weeks and then I find excuses.” 

While some people, like Shutts, look forward to setting New Year’s resolutions to challenge themselves to try to accomplish their goals, other people, like Stoudt, feel pressure to make a resolution mostly because other people expect it. This is one of the pitfalls to New Year’s resolutions. Since making resolutions is so ingrained in our culture, even people who don’t really want to set a goal feel like they need to have a goal in mind. It is very difficult for these people to have the motivation to follow through with a resolution for any length of time, much less a whole year, if it is something that they don’t really have any desire to do. Then, they might feel disappointed or ashamed when their resolution inevitably falls apart, and it could discourage them from setting resolutions that they really want to accomplish in the future, all because they failed at a goal they didn’t even care about in the first place. 

Recognize that it is great if you want to set a New Year’s resolution, but it is also great if you say “I don’t feel like doing that this year.” Don’t feel pressured to set a specific goal, and don’t force other people to commit to something they don’t want to do. 

For those who do want to make resolutions, it can be very daunting to try to make a resolution that will last the whole year, especially if previous years did not go very well. However, there are plenty of ways to make it easier. The most important way to make sure a New Year’s resolution sticks is to set a good goal. If the goal is unrealistic or something you’re just doing because someone else is working on that goal as well, you’re going to lose motivation quickly. It needs to be something that you truly care about and can accomplish.
When setting up a New Year’s resolution, Stoudt suggests not trying to put a ton of pressure on the goal. 

“I’m not going to do one of those ‘I’m going to run a 5k’ or ‘I’m going to drop so much weight,’” Stoudt states. “I’m not going to put that pressure on myself because that’s just setting myself up for failure.”

Don’t set ridiculously high expectations for yourself or put too much pressure on yourself to be perfect at following your goal. Even if there are days that don’t go as planned, focus on the positives and keep trying. 

Another tip that Stoudt has is to not make the goal too challenging. 

“Make small, attainable goals that are measurable, and then reward yourself for making those goals,” Stoudt recommends. “Take the big goal, break it down into manageable parts, and then meet each of those goals. If you have a slip up, pick yourself back up and move on. Keep going towards the goal instead of giving up.” 

It’s very important to make sure the goal is realistic and achievable for you. Everyone is at different stages of their life, and what is reasonable for one person is not a good choice for another person. Don’t let someone else’s goal make you feel like your’s is less worthwhile just because they’re at a different point in their life. 

Gallagher also sees the dangers in people setting too many expectations for themselves.

“That’s just a recipe for failure,” Gallagher explains. “One of the most important things we can do is realize, if I can get just this much better, a little bit better tomorrow than I was today, that’s improvement. Don’t try to do too much. It’s much better to try to focus on one thing. I think a lot of people don’t really have a plan for it either… So you have to plan ahead and take those little steps that are going to take you where you want to go. Leaps forward are wonderful, but they’re hard to do.” 

While it is important to dream big, it is critical to take small steps. When a goal is too large, it feels overwhelming and it will be pushed off in favor of more easily accomplished tasks. Like Stoudt and Gallagher advise, take it step by step. Break it into smaller pieces so it doesn’t seem so difficult. Check each step off a list so that you can feel accomplished and be encouraged by how far you’ve already come. 

To stay on track after setting the goal, Shutts suggests finding a way to make sure you remember the goal each day. 

“[I usually keep New Year’s resolutions] about a month and then I’ve forgotten about them,” Shutts says. “Make sure you think about it each day or maybe write down your progress to see if you have done anything that day to try to accomplish it.” 

With all the chaos of daily life, it can be very easy to forget about a resolution that was made days, weeks, or months ago. Something as simple as having a post-it note in a place you will see it every day or setting a daily alarm on your phone will help you remember your goal. Additionally, keeping track of your progress on a checklist or journal helps you remember what you still need to contribute to achieve your goal, and it can be inspiring to see all the progress you have already made. 

When working on the goal, Gallagher believes it’s really important to not to get discouraged if you have a bad day. 

“If you treat every day as a new year, then some days are good, some days are bad,” Gallagher says. “Sometimes it can be weeks or months [of keeping a goal], then it goes away. Sometimes circumstances help dictate that [and you can’t keep your goal anymore]… We are works in progress as human beings. Every day, you get a little bit better, or at least you try to, and if you don’t, okay, tomorrow’s another day [to try again].”

Everyone has days when they aren’t as productive and don’t accomplish as much as they had hoped. It’s just a part of being human. What’s important is not whether you have those days, because everyone does at some point, but how you react to them. You can say, “I’m a failure because I didn’t accomplish this or that,” or you can say, “I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to today, but I’ll try again tomorrow.” Spending time regretting that you didn’t get to do something isn’t going to go back in time and make it happen and it isn’t going to make you happy, so don’t waste time worrying about it. Instead, think about all the things that you have accomplished and how you can make what you want to accomplish more of a priority in the future. Take some time to make a list of your goals for the day and prioritize them so that you make sure you can do what matters most to you. 

It is also totally acceptable to change your goal. Circumstances change, and what was a good idea at the beginning of January might no longer be realistic in February. If someone’s goal was to run a mile every day and that person breaks a leg, obviously that goal doesn’t work anymore. If they start taking harder classes or get a job and have less time than when they made the goal, they might need to adjust their goal to reflect the amount of time they can realistically commit to it. The point isn’t whether you stuck to your goal exactly as you wrote it in January, but that you tried each day to do something to become a better person. Some days or weeks you might be able to do more than others, but every day that you try counts. 

Celebrating the new year looks a little different for everyone. Whether that involves making a resolution or not, remember to support each other. We are all working towards being the best versions of ourselves possible, and that journey is so much more enjoyable when we do it with the people who care about us and push us to do our best, even when it’s hard. Don’t give up on your resolutions just because you have one hard day or one hard week. Know that you can accomplish your goals and that there are people who support you and are cheering you on.