August has arrived, and students around the world are getting ready to put their best academic feet forward as we are ushered in to the new school year. In many ways, August is not unlike January; the New Year and the New School Year are preceded by last minute partying and countdowns to the day. Both are considered a fresh start, and they’re both the perfect time to reflect on life goals and make resolutions.
On December 31st, goals are focused on lifestyles and habits not necessarily relevant to academia. At this stage in our lives, academia can often become our lifestyle, so it’s important that we don’t neglect it. Most of us already have goals: get into our first choice university, earn the best internship spot, and be at the top of the class. What we don’t always have is the continued motivation or game plan to accomplish our goals- that’s where August resolutions come in. Coming up with these resolutions requires us to be introspective and prioritize life goals and what we want to get accomplished. By starting resolutions right before school begins, we can take advantage of being more focused on the next school year. It’s easy to set up and, with a little effort, you will see progress.
1. Determine resolutions and set reasonable goals.
Resolutions can be looked at two ways: sacrifices or upgrades. We can either view our resolutions as sacrificing old habits in order to achieve the lifestyle we want, or upgrading our habits so we can be better and more successful people. And some resolutions are more reasonable than others. Are you really going to give up Netflix to make sure you do well the first semester? Probably not. Instead of trying to deprive yourself, aim to incorporate newer, healthier habits into your life. In this situation, I would make the effort to spend at least 1 hour of studying for each class with maximum effort, and treat myself to some Netflix when I’m done. It’s more reasonable to ask a young adult to upgrade their habits than to sacrifice a pleasure.
2. Use a system of self-accountability.
There’s no point in making resolutions if you’re not going to hold yourself to them. Write down your goals, tell someone about yours goals, or even have goal buddies. I keep my goals listed in on a big whiteboard in my room, and underneath each goal I’ve listed the resolutions and steps I am taking to get there. You won’t have a teacher to do a homework check (unless you and your buddy help each other), so you have to be your own self-advocate and keep yourself in line. This is one of the hardest things to do, and one of my resolutions was to keep an eye on myself.
3. Check progress often.
This is different from accountability in that this time, you aren’t checking to see that you’ve worked on your goal but rather that you’ve improved. Set up a schedule if you don’t trust yourself yet, but soon these self-checks will become natural and routine. Wednesday is my favorite day to do a quick self-check on my goals and resolutions. With it being the middle of the week, Wednesday is the perfect day to set deadlines for yourself; you have a couple of work days to get something accomplished before and after the date. You’re already in the zone of things and not tired on a Monday or itching for the Friday night.
4. Celebrate small milestones.
As Donna Meagle and Tom Haverford would preach on Parks and Recreation: Treat Yo Self. Enforce positive outcomes with rewards to keep yourself motivated!
5. Reevaluate the goals you couldn’t meet.
Why couldn’t you meet the goals? Sometimes we don’t check in enough or we lose motivation, and that’s understandable. But the problem can also be found in Step 1: setting reasonable goals. We can be overenthusiastic and optimistic in our abilities and it’s easy to bite off more than we can chew. It’s the time to ask yourself if the goals were reasonable, and maybe question if you are approaching your resolution the right way. Trust your instincts and don’t give up on anything or yourself.
I’ve found that resolutions are more effective when they are positively focused and viewed as upgrades. Behavioral resolutions require and encourage self-discipline. If we learn to apply self-discipline as young adults and set academic goals, it will be much easier to set career and financial goals later on in adulthood.
It is never too late to start setting goals. Goals are supposed to be achievable and reasonable hopes that will enhance one’s motivation and purpose. It’s August, it’s a fresh start, and it’s time for us to start making some resolutions.