Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions Personal

By Caitlin T. Burns | December 12, 2019

Dr. Marianne Miserandino, Professor of Psychology
Courses: Social Psychology; Personality Psychology; Vice and Virtue on Stage and Screen; Senior Seminar
Expertise: Motivation as a Social-Personality Psychologist
Advice to students: “Be open to possibilities and new experiences of college.”

Dr. Marianne Miserandino plans to slow things down and make more personal connections in 2020. Eating healthy and becoming more active is on the list, but she anticipates that isn’t personal enough to be a sustainable resolution.

As a social-personality psychologist who studies motivation, she knows New Year’s resolutions need to be specific and personal if we hope to keep them. 

Dr. Miserandino’s tips to help keep your New Year’s resolutions:

– Identify a resolution that’s personal to you.
– Avoid shaming yourself for failure.
– Use small steps to achieve a bigger goal.
– Strike a balance with your resolutions by providing some “do’s” and “don’ts”— i.e. “do” eat healthy, “don’t” eat donuts.
– Anticipate obstacles and challenges, and plan how to overcome them.
– Create an environment that cultivates success, such as taking sneakers with you to work if it’s a nice day so you can go for a walk.
– Make your resolutions tangible and measurable, in order to hold yourself accountable.
– Be ready to start again after a setback or lapse. Don’t give up on yourself.

“Everyone loves to make resolutions,” said Dr. Miserandino. “We are moved by the chance to start fresh, and that’s what a new year gives us. And with that, it’s not what you resolve to do that determines whether you’ll make it, it’s why you want that resolution.” 

Using the example of eating healthy and becoming more active, Dr. Miserandino said external pressures about society’s ideals of beauty are not strong enough motivation to keep a resolution all year. However, if your resolution is to walk more, and you accomplish it on a path by your home where you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature, you’re more likely to stick to it because it’s personal and something you enjoy.

“The kind of resolutions that work are the ones we’ve chosen because they’re part of our identity,” she said. Those resolutions, she notes, are also harder to give up when you make a mistake. “You just have to recognize that we’re human, and we’re bound to mess up. You take the long view and recognize that just because you mess up, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost it. You keep persisting.”

Dr. Miserandino said that studies show that individuals fail approximately 30 times before they succeed in breaking a habit or building a new one. While it can be disheartening, if need be, set smaller goals that build up to a larger one— “chipping away,” as she calls it. 

But resolutions aren’t always simply to stop eating pastries every week. Sometimes, they’re aspirational. Dr. Miserandino noted how in her 40s she finally decided to return to her love of dance, after thinking there was no time for it. Now, she takes classes twice a week and has advanced as far as pointe. 

It’s not the only activity she’s picked up due to resolutions; she’s also learned ceramics, mosaics, photography, and some German, to name a few. Each year, she resolves to learn something new, which she said helps her connect with students.