Resolutions are notoriously grandiose and often unrealistic, yet we keep coming back to them at the start of the year. Why are resolutions a “thing” if they are also known to be discarded by February?
The idea of starting “fresh” is appealing. This implies something worth noting, namely, we are aware of our capacity for improvement. Resolutions inherently point to the notion that we can be better. We are not static. We are not defined. We can imagine doing and being better. The new year prompts us to this realization and makes us conscious of possibility.
Resolutions must be cemented in habit. Start with manageable baby steps. Don’t try to be a different person; rather, focus on becoming the best version of yourself. Simply dabbling with the idea of being better is not enough to actually be better. To achieve staying power resolutions should be broken down into actionable steps.
Here are some actionable steps for the college bound:
- Wake up at least 1 hour before your first class. I recommend 2 hours, but I know some of you are staying up quite late. Do not roll out of bed and stumble into your morning classes. Set the alarm earlier and use the extra time to grab a coffee and review your notes before the lecture. This will only be difficult for the first few days, but by day 5 you’ll automatically be waking up earlier.
- Join a club on campus. This step brings you closer to the university community and, studies have shown, will increase your chances of graduating and graduating on time. Look for a club that centers on your major. Information will be posted in your major’s department. This is also a nice opportunity to get the scoop on classes to take (or not take) from other students.
- Visit the office hours of each of your professors at least once. This will only take 30 minutes of your time, but the returns on this investment will last throughout the term. You’ll instantly become more involved in the class. Making the time to visit in person is also a small habit that translates nicely into “real world” action. Connect with people face-to-face as opposed to reducing communication solely through email.
- Read one book outside of class. I know you are inundated with course work so you needn’t pick something that’ll weigh you down. I don’t recommend taking a stab at Tolstoy’s War and Peace, for instance. However, the habit of reading in addition to your workload will be just as important in your life after college in the “real world.” The most successful people read or listen to audiobooks because advancing one’s knowledge is simply healthy and good for one’s business. Ask three of the most successful people you know and see what they are reading and how often. Stay curious. (I’ve listed three book suggestions below.)
- Buy a Journal. Keep it in a place where you’ll remember to write in it and look it over: nightstand, desk, school bag, or the loo. Set aside a day (or two) when you will add to the journal. On this day write what you are thankful for, one thing you learned from each of your classes, and a new word you learned. Increase your gratitude, awareness of your new knowledge and your vocabulary. (I had a journal devoted only to new words. Before a paper I’d turn to my journal and pick 2 words to use. It became something of a game.)
Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I’ve recommended this over and over again. This book is about climbing Mount Everest in the throes of one of the worst storms/disasters. Krakauer’s writing is incredibly absorbing and entertaining. One of my students recently emailed that he read this book based on my recommendation and it came up during a job interview. He thinks he got the job because he was able to chat about it with his prospective employer. Bravo, I say!
The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Anyone interested in business, marketing, advertising, and/or sociology should check this out. Gladwell examines points at which a momentum shifts and trends take off.
Born Standing Up by Steve Martin. I loved loved loved this memoir. Steve Martin brings the reader on his journey to becoming one of the most successful stand-up comedians. He is honest, witty, and insightful. While the book does, of course, focus on life as a comic, its real value is in the underscoring theme of commitment and dedication. Steve Martin believed in himself, in entertaining, and in re-creating and revising his act. Anyone needing a bit of motivation to kick start their year and follow through with their goals should read this book.
Best of luck, dear students! Have a wonderful year!