Gates: Simple New Year’s resolutions work best 


Matt Gates, Columnist

It’s been 11 days since 2015 kicked off and an estimated 40 percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions. But how many Americans have held true to their resolutions? As college students, many of us may have resolved to fulfill lofty goals to improve ourselves, our Northwestern experiences and our futures: getting higher grades, exercising more or spending more time with friends and family. But how many of us actually adhere to our plans?

According to a study completed at the University of Scranton, only 8 percent of New Year’s Resolutions are successfully completed. Some of us may have already seen friends or relatives fall short of completing their New Year’s resolutions. Why is it that we can commit ourselves to spending a year working towards a goal but then fall short of it only days later? Perhaps we are too busy. Perhaps we are just not consistently motivated to complete our goal. Perhaps we are just lazy. Or perhaps we have made our goals too complicated?

Everyone has moments when they strive for perfection rather than moderate and attainable improvement. Ambitious NU students are as likely as most to adopt this tendency. Rather than creating goals that are too complicated to ever achieve, we should simplify our New Year’s resolutions to a few small steps required to improve our lives.

Simple resolutions have the obvious benefit of being easy to follow. It is far easier for a student seeking to improve his or her academic performance to remember to do readings on time than to remember to do readings on time, study early for exams and check over problem sets with a friend.

Complicated resolutions also tend to be more ambitious and therefore easier to give up on. Losing 50 pounds may be preferable to losing 10 pounds, but losing 10 pounds is far easier to achieve. A goal of losing 50 pounds will require far more complex diet and exercise plans. Complicated workout routines are hard to follow because the “all or nothing” mentality that can accompany them may actually undermine the resolutions of those who seek to improve their physical fitness. For example, someone who resolves to spend an hour at the gym each day might find themselves not going to the gym at all if they only have an hour to spare on a certain day. It may seem that a complex goal will accomplish more than a simple goal, but a complex plan could be abandoned and accomplish nothing while a simple goal is more likely to be completed.

Remember, we may already be 11 days into 2015, but it’s never too late to edit your resolutions. Take that lengthy plan to become the first ever NU graduate to win a Nobel Prize and an Olympic Gold medal and reduce it to a simple one that could someday pave the way for the same results.

Matt Gates is a Weinberg sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a letter to the editor to [email protected].