Happy New Year, readers! Last week I wrapped up my four-part series on how I survived the dissertation process. I hope my experience can help others in the same position. If my process does not work for you, I hope it can at least help you figure out your own personal recipe for success. In honor of the new year, I thought I would be a cliche and talk about resolutions.
It has become common knowledge that most resolutions are abandoned by February, if they even make it that far. This is often the case because we tend to over-estimate what we can accomplish. One of the most common resolutions is to work out more often. How many people do you know who have not gone to the gym since last January who insist, starting 1/1/14, they will exercise five times per week? Or maybe this person is you. (Exercise has been my failed resolution more than once!) The important thing is to be realistic. Resolutions that involve setting yourself up for failure are easily abandoned.
That’s not to say you could never exercise five times a week. You just need to work up to that rather than starting there. Will power is like a muscle – the more you engage it, the stronger it gets, but it requires training. You would not attempt to bench 200 pounds if you had never touched a weight before because you would get nowhere. Start with the smaller weights and work your way up. For me – these past few months I have been shirking my exercise schedule. I have my internship applications to thank for that. So for the new year, I am starting by going to the gym in my complex once per week, and I found a brief workout that can be done at home to be done before I shower.
Next, we have to remember to forgive ourselves when we fall short of our resolutions. I can’t tell you how many times I have committed to making a change in my life only to abandon it because I was falling short. Once, when trying to make healthier dietary choices, I read a quote that I now cannot find: Deciding to stop your diet because you did poorly that day is like dropping your cell phone and saying, “It’s probably broken. I may as well run it over with my car.”
My third and final tip for keeping a resolution is to make it quantifiable. Last year I made a resolution to finish my dissertation, and so I set a schedule to keep it. If I had just resolved to work on my dissertation, it would have been much more difficult to determine whether or not I was successful. Break it down for yourself and you are more likely to follow through.
So, to recap:
1. Keep it realistic.
2. Forgive yourself.
3. Be specific.
Now that you are all set to make and keep your resolutions for 2014, I want to throw in a plug for self-care. New Year’s resolutions tend to focus around self-improvement, which is wonderful, but sometimes at the cost of well-being, so I suggest throwing in at least one that is just for you. For me, I enjoy cooking but rarely make the time for it. In 2014, I intend to try two new recipes per month. I know I would probably fail if I tried to make cooking a part of my weekly ritual, and I know that a resolution to “cook more” would ultimately lead to one or two taco nights with my roommate and end there.
Welcome to 2014! What will you do to take care of yourself this year?