New Academic Year's Resolutions: Facilitating Motivation or Encouraging Failure?

10/10/2013 13:40 BST | Updated 09/12/2013 10:12 GMT

I've always been sceptical of New Year's resolutions. I've never understood the reasoning behind waiting until January 1st to miraculously improve one's quality of life by joining a gym, giving up chocolate and doing that "one good deed" every week. Perhaps my cynicism has been cultivated from my home life experiences, where my mum would earnestly claim with conviction that the diet would start again next Monday, having only reached Wednesday before consuming some form of "banned" carbohydrate. My point being, why wait to improve one's self when we should always be looking to better ourselves at every given opportunity?

Nobody's perfect, and it's making mistakes (like eating that cheeky chocolate bar or spending unfathomable amounts of money on a gym membership that you've used once) that teach us where and how we've managed to stray from our goals, and how to avoid doing so in the future. However, there is usually nothing wrong with the large proportion of New Year's resolutions. The problem is that we try to do too much too soon, which is never sustainable in the long term. As a result, many of these hopeful resolution-makers have fallen short of their targets and are left discouraged, disgruntled and confidence-broken by February.

Unfortunately, many students go through the equivalent disheartening process at the start of each academic year. But this year I; the self-proclaimed resolution cynic, has created a long list of things that I want to achieve by the end of the academic year. Especially important as it is my final year, I find myself asking the question - Will I fall victim to this vicious cycle and come up short when it matters most?

I believe I've never had a problem with motivation. As a violinist working and studying towards an incredibly competitive profession, we are constantly reminded that Jobs are few and far in between and that only the best will prevail, so no less than ultimate dedication to your craft is acceptable. You will only be successful if motivation is your best friend. And looking back over the past three years of my degree, I believe that through both the successes and failures, I have never let my drive or passion subside. So why is it now, whilst I stare in the face of my ultimate goals for my final year, do I question the strength of my motivation? Obviously the marks of my assessments over the next nine months have a much larger impact on the results of my degree, and so much more is at stake. But surely that fact would fuel my desire to succeed, not exacerbate performance anxiety issues?

I soon realise that it's because we believe resolutions, (much like rules), are made to be broken. We procrastinate on bettering ourselves until January 1st and start our healthy new diet every Monday because we believe we have all the time in the world to change. So whether it happens today, tomorrow or next week makes no huge difference - right?

Wrong. Because what happens when you set yourself that half-hearted resolution when there IS a time limit? Failure is no longer an option. Should I have set myself less ambitious goals? Something more manageable, that allows for a greater margin of error?

Hell no. The beauty of resolutions is in their level of extremity. They turn us as a society into dreamers. Because in the inspired moment that we generate a resolution that we decide to commit to, we truly believe that anything we say is possible. The problem has never been with the resolutions. It's been maintaining the belief that we can do whatever we set our minds to.

I'm not going to pretend that I have the answer, and that I know how we can all maintain this self-belief. However I know what I'm going to try this year. Baby steps. Setting smaller objectives that lead us to our final destination. If we create a journey for ourselves, then sustainability is much more viable. Because if we do fall short at some point, we can still look back and remind ourselves of everything that we've already achieved, and hopefully that will be enough to keep us going.

Nine months is a long time. But it's not as long as we would like to think. My greatest aim for my final year is to make the most of every second I have, whether it's degree-related or not. This way I hope that I'll never stop working towards my goals, and therefore give myself the best possible chance at success.

Maybe resolutions aren't so bad after all.