Forget making New Year’s Resolutions as a student, it’s okay to do things at your own pace

Be less harsh on yourself in 2023 and eat those crisps

I don’t see the fuss with New Year’s eve or the resolutions that are so tightly bound to it. What is it about the 1st of January that makes people – no minute later than the Sunday roast we just pigged – decide it is the right time to “cut back” on bad habits, crisps and common sense? I guess it’s like asking why so many people believe in their horoscope chart. New Year’s Resolutions are a mania of society, a product of advertising and … a big fat trick. And yet, we join the craze. 

Every year since I was twelve, I made my neat little list of things I wanted to improve for the next year. With a wild imagination as a child, I accumulated maybe six to eight ideas, written in my best cursive and littered with drawings of stars and moons. Maybe if I drew a couple of constellations they would have come true, as I vaguely remember a feeling of despair at 16 when I wasn’t suddenly cast in Mamma Mia the Musical. As I got older, I learned that the more realistic the goals were, the better (I got over the fact that wishing for three dads was not going to work). 

By realistic, I won’t be binning chocolate, takeaways or anything else that makes a winter day more enjoyable. Instead, I’m balancing this by hoping to get in a couple of swims in a week. On the other hand, if your goal is to read 10 minutes a day, I will make my case quickly. 

The pressure of society telling you to change your life, cut all sugars and set three “simple” goals is actually harder than it seems. This goes hand in hand with the dangerous productivity narrative the Gen-Z are suffocated with, to take on four side hustles and to never “stop”. Overcommitting too many goals will only lead to burnout, which can sometimes build up naturally as a student. 


The big bosses at the New York Times, CNN and Forbes have all published guides about how to fulfil that pesky list of resolutions you’ve got sat on your desk. For some reason, as a student balancing my life in a bustling city like London, I’m unsure whether I find solace in their advice. 

A Forbes contributor suggested that when thinking of your goal, it is best to write down why you want to achieve it. To some extent, I can see how reinforcing the motivation behind it might make you more inclined to keep at it. But I’m still not entirely sold. 

Other typical advice that resolutions help you “build” your dream life and “navigate” tough times simply seems out of date when considering student life. When juggling adversities, the cost of living crisis and your studies, putting one foot in front of the other is enough of a present task. Equally, when swamped with four assignments and a seminar presentation due in the space of 48 hours, I am only focused on making it through the night. I am certainly not looking to build anything else for whatever version of my future self may or may not exist. 

Having spoken to some university students this year, it seems that we are actually only capable of setting one or two goals. This makes it more reasonable to stay on track. Taking up a new sport, heading back to the gym or drinking less are common goals. Making those 9am lectures has also made the list. But do we pull through with them? 

Much of the New Year’s resolution hype comes down to how much energy we have for changing our daily routines. Adding new habits and “cutting” down on old ones requires willpower and energy to change your previous routines. It is a conscious act. 

Oops, still drinking my sugar-loaded Coca-Cola.

Last semester, my energy was going into deciding what meal deal combo I was getting on my break. Last week during exam season I barely had the willpower to empty the dishwasher. I know, I know. 

But let’s talk about energy, in terms of how you really feel in this shiny new year. Christmas holidays tend not to be a switched-off time for us students, despite lecturers wishing us “all the rest we can get”. Lately, my Instagram feed has been drowned in glitzy 2022 photo dumps and lots of motivational quotes. Whilst these are welcome, the latter can be overwhelming in the pressure to have everything ‘sorted’ in the sprint into the New Year. 

Setting goals for the year up ahead is a great, great thing. It gives you a direct, sense of purpose and something to make a mood board about on a rainy afternoon. My issue comes from feeling like you should set goals once January hits. So, instead of tying ourselves to such a list that you’ll have forgotten about come February, give journaling or manifestation a try. Tiktokers and gurus like Roxie Nafousi (author of Manifest) swear by them, as an alternative to being overly harsh on yourself in changing your habits in the New Year. Manifestation doesn’t mean wishing you will pass those pesky exams, you still have to study. But, it will provide you with tools to process the events of 2022 and take out any trashy residue. 

So, I have a New Year’s anti-resolution: I won’t be going near the 5am club to stretch my legs on a run before a day of classes. That wake-up call is strictly reserved for the 4:55am trips to Gatwick airport for the annual summer holiday. At this point, us students are prioritising sleep where we can as the semester hits full swing and we don’t get into bed before midnight. Ever. 

After all of this, I still trust that if next week goes pear-shaped, I can head down to Dover Castle Pub and be certain to be greeted with a hefty smile. Whether I order a cider or not, that’s a positive enough start for me.

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