Student Life

Slice of Life: To-Do: Smell a rose

Rethinking what it means to set goals for ourselves

From late December to early January, the internet is riddled with memes generally belonging to four categories: empty bank accounts, being drunk from Dec. 24 to Jan. 2, cringey family stories, and, my personal favorite, all the ‘new year, new me’ bullshit. As if overriding our digestive systems with champagne and Jameson somehow flushes out all the toxicity from the previous year, leaving us with a blank-slate liver to tackle the new year with.

Honestly, New Year’s resolutions are pretty dumb. You can search the crap out of it: in January 2013, Forbes reported that only 8 per cent of people achieve their New Year’s resolutions, and in January 2017, Business Insider reported that 80 per cent of resolutions fail by the second week of February. But why? Why is it so difficult to set a goal—a singular goal—and follow through with it?

About a year ago, The New York Times listed tips for making and keeping resolutions. Just a few days ago, The Guardian published an article that touched on similar points: make a personal plan, join a support community, focus on one goal at a time, find what motivates you, externalize your goals, etc. All good advice, sure, but these fluff articles still have a hollow ring to them.

There are so many issues with New Year’s resolutions (not the inherent concept of goal-setting), but mainly it’s the localization of goal-setting to one check-point window in the year and the pressure to make that window. Realistically, we change so much throughout the year, and it’s important to recognize how your goals evolve with you. On top of the pressure to make a New Year’s resolution, there’s also pressure to make your resolution fit into a cutback-box. For most, resolutions consist of goals like: spend less money, go out less, watch less Netflix, start going to [insert physical activity], read that book, eat less junk, pay off debt, etc.

But what if your resolution was stuff you should do more of? Laugh more. Go outside more. Call more friends. Have more dinners at home. Think you’d have an easier time sticking to those resolutions? Melbourne-based queer artist @frances_cannon posted “Frances Cannon’s Big 2019 List” on Jan. 2, and it may surprise you in all the best ways. Cannon lists goals such as: take a breath, let go of someone who hurt you, apply for something that scares you, tell a really good joke, call someone you haven’t called in a while, smell a rose and many more goals, both small and large. It’s time we start rethinking the wide range of what goals can be for each individual, and accepting that self love is both loving ourselves for accomplishing those goals, and loving ourselves for accepting when we simply cannot.

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda


Hate resolutions? Resolve to be nicer

Support those who are trying to do better: don’t minimize them

I absolutely love New Year’s.

Though, to be honest, I couldn’t care less about a ball dropping or people swarming Times Square. I’m not a party person—I’ll take tea and slippers over a club any day of the week. Changing a number on the date holds, frankly, very little sentimental value to me. On top of all those, it’s cold—especially so without the sentimentality of the holidays.

Know what makes New Years so amazing? People.

It seems that, in early January, everyone comes alive. They glow with something you don’t see any other time of the year. Suddenly, they’re talking about going to the gym. Getting healthy. Saving the environment. Finishing that big project—or maybe getting their big break.

Look around: quiet people are coming out of their shells. People are looking for love. Some are cutting and dying their hair, or completely changing their look. I’m talking about learning languages, learning to draw, learning to (finally) ride a bike. Getting ready to travel the world.

In early January, people make resolutions. And I think that’s amazing.

Everyone is letting their dreams out of the little closets in their mind. People are trying to become better. People are rolling up their sleeves for their own sake, and the sake of those around them.

So, when did resolutions become passé?

Making resolutions is a staple of New Years, though there seems to be a growing trend of resolution-bashers. (Alan Cleaver/Flickr)

I’ve been hearing it more and more: “most people don’t go through with them anyway,” “they’re clogging up my gym,” or some-such things. Besides the idea that it is “your gym” (get off your fitness high-horse), I have to ask—who the hell do you think you are?

You don’t want to make a resolution? That’s perfectly fine. And if people are pressuring you to come up with one, that’s horrible. A resolution has to be something you want to do, otherwise it loses all meaning. These next paragraphs aren’t aimed at you.

It’s for the people who openly mock and criticize people who decide to make a resolution. How dare—and yes, dare you—mock someone for trying to make themselves better? For trying to make someone else’s life better?  I don’t care if they took your favourite treadmill at the gym, or if you blame them for buying up all the supplies for your favourite hobby. I don’t care if you’re the kind of person who hates when people don’t finish what they start.

Because they are trying. They are trying really fucking hard. Do you know how intimidating it is to be out of shape and walk into the gym for the first time? How scary it is to pick up a huge, complex and daunting hobby? How absolutely terrifying it could be, looking at a map of the big wide world and deciding to go at it alone? It takes a metric ton of courage.

In my eyes, deciding to do better is something we should all hold on the highest pedestal. Even if they only go to the gym once. Even if they never touch a paintbrush. Even if they never purchase a plane ticket. I’m willing to stand on the sidelines cheering on the people I care about, for however long they’re willing to go. Maybe they’ll make it, maybe they won’t. But I refuse to be the gatekeeper standing between them and their dreams—and you should too.

In 2015, resolve to be a supportive human being. Clearly, you need it.


Taking on 2013 with a vengeance

Graphic by Jennifer Kwan

The clock struck midnight, the confetti polluted the streets, the fireworks popped and crackled, and now that the holidays are over you’re ready to turn your life around. It’s a new year, a fresh start, and you’re going into it bright-eyed. The year 2012 was supposed to be better than 2011, and obviously 2013 will be better than 2012, right?

It’s almost as if the whole world just decides to do a major clean up at the start of each year and everything is reset. Doesn’t that sound ridiculous? That’s because it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it is great that people want to set goals, but there are a lot of common resolutions that set the bar a little too high and are just begging for failure.

“I believe that the resolutions we make are only there to comfort us for the time being,” said Concordia Student Jessica Palmieri. She doesn’t make resolutions because she feels like “slapping a label” on something makes it more difficult to do.

The all too common weight loss and gym resolution is probably one of the most popular. Dieting programs step up their advertising and gyms are filled to the brink in the days following Jan. 1. They’ve been dubbed the “resolutioners,” with gyms seeing an increase of almost 100 per cent, according to CBC and the Wall Street Journal. This only lasts a few weeks though. Time magazine states that things usually go back to normal in February, with 60 per cent of the memberships bought gone down the drain.

Other popular resolutions are to quit smoking, drastically change a diet and to become more knowledgeable about something. Realistically, though, you cannot just say that you’re going to learn Italian if you’ve never spoken a word or that you’re going to quit smoking just like that if you smoke a pack a day.

The way we formulate our resolutions simply sets us up for failure. As a recent study done at the University of Scranton and published in the Journal of Psychology shows, only eight per cent of Americans who make resolutions are actually successful in achieving them. Clearly not the percentage most want to see.

Resolutions are based on the willpower of the individual and some experts say your brain just cannot handle the stress of such sudden changes. As a Stanford University experiment explains, your prefrontal cortex is what handles your willpower. Willpower needs to be built up and trained. The best way to train for things is to take baby steps. This can also be applied to setting goals.

The worst thing that you can do is decide out of the blue that you’re giving up chocolate. An hour later, you’ll find yourself surrounded by gold and brown Ferrero Rocher wrappers with your cats pawing at them and judging you. Then you’ll hate yourself.

The issue is that we set high goals for ourselves that aren’t alway manageable and once we fail we find ourselves terribly discouraged. That’s why I think you need to set small goals at first and then continue to work up to more drastic changes. The light at the end of the tunnel needs to be visible, and you need to make sure it isn’t a train coming to hit you head on.

There are also resolutions that just don’t make much sense to me, specifically when it comes to habits we’ve had for a very long time. Charles Duhigg, New York Times writer and author of “The Power of Habit,” explains in his book that habits are compulsions, things that we’ve been doing for so long that we don’t even realize it anymore. A lot of work goes into breaking a habit, and it goes much deeper than we think.

I’m not trying to put anyone down for trying to improve his or her life, however, I think we should be setting goals for ourselves all year long and constantly taking little steps to improving ourselves. Now, if you’d excuse me, I have some chocolate to give away.

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