DePaul students and staff speak about their goals for 2023
In each new year, we create resolutions hoping that we can make this year better than the last. We plan to live a healthier lifestyle, exercise, meet a career goal or improve our close relationships; we simply want to become a better version of ourselves. But if daily life is only a series of our short-lived activities and behaviors, how can we create a comprehensive idea of what we wish to accomplish by the end of the year?
Gregory Scott, a sociology professor at DePaul University, believes that small, incremental changes are most effective in achieving our goals. Since working in the field of harm reduction, an area that helps people with addictions to drug use, alcohol use and other risky behaviors, Scott has worked with various people who combat the struggles that accompany addiction. From Scott’s experiences, he has learned that similarly to how quitting drugs “cold turkey” does not always work to treat substance abuse, making drastic changes to our lives while betting on positive outcomes is almost certainly unattainable.
“We often want wholesale change to happen, radical, massively transformative, opposite-ended spectrum change, and the reality is that that’s not a very sticky kind of change,” Scott said.
Instead, Scott elaborates that smaller and simpler changes to our everyday lives can be easily accomplished, and far more rewarding because they tend to stick.
“Maybe some people find it effective to make a resolution that will transcend the entire year but based on all that I understand about human behavior, I think it’s probably more likely that the majority of us would be well-served by small resolutions,” Scott said. “Promises to self that occur in a delimited time period, maybe not so long as a year, that are measurable and doable on a smaller timeline.”
After speaking with Scott, I began to think more about how I implement these smaller lifestyle goals in my own life. Recently, I have been working on getting back into sewing and selling clothes because it is a hobby that is incredibly self-fulfilling for me. However, I’ve slowly drifted away from it. Now, I am making a conscious effort to spend time advancing my skills at least twice a week. Rather than making an extravagant goal for myself to sew 100 tops by the end of the year, I have created a weekly schedule. After doing this for only three weeks now, I found that I felt immediate gratification after I completed my weekly goal to sew.
I then decided that I wanted to ask people in my life about their approach to goal setting. I found that many of them approach it in a similar manner. Kealey Kostos, a friend of mine and a sophomore at DePaul University majoring in entrepreneurship, says she likes to make goals for herself quarterly, rather than annually.
“I think goal setting is important because it gives you an opportunity to visualize what you want to do in the future and where you’d like to be,” Kostos said. “Having certain goals set out allows you to see your progress and whether or not you are growing as an individual.”
By setting smaller goals throughout the year, Kostos feels that she has more control over her future and that she can sooner feel accomplished.
“I never really make New Year’s resolutions, I just go into the year having certain expectations for myself,” Kostos said. “I like to make goals for myself on a quarterly basis to kind of like check-in.”
Kostos explains that her goals for this quarter are to better her health and fitness by staying on a consistent schedule, building closer relationships with significant people in her life, and working on her career as an aspiring entrepreneur. As a part-time worker and a full-time student, Kostos believes that “busy is better.” If she can consistently fill her free time with activities that will improve her lifestyle, she will feel that her goals have been met.
According to James Clear, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Atomic Habits” and a behavioral psychologist, one popular method to build habits is the 21/90 rule. This rule explains that it takes 21 consecutive days to form a habit and 90 days to instill that habit into your life. In the 1950s, Maxwell Maltz, a plastic surgeon, noticed that it would typically take the patient three weeks to heal after performing an operation. He then went on to write a self-help book in 1960 called “Psycho-Cybernetics,” where he conducted further research and found that it also took about 21 days to form a new habit. In the following years, many self-help professionals were influenced by this method, and soon enough, it became a phenomenon. Now with further research, this method is antiquated.
“It takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic,” Clear writes, “and how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person and the circumstances.”
Similarly, goals and resolutions vary for everyone because what works for one person, will not always work for the next. I then asked another one of my friends about her approach to goal setting in the new year.
One of my friends, sophomore Estella Gabor, is a journalism major at DePaul who is focusing on one major goal for this new year; Gabor plans to work towards budgeting her money more responsibly, so she can afford therapy on her own.
“I want to take care of myself,” Gabor said. “I want to be able to use my own money that I work for to support myself and take care of myself and my mental health.”
Since Gabor started a new job in retail, she has told me that it has helped her become self-sufficient; if she can learn to budget her spending, she will be on track for a successful future.
Another friend of mine and a sophomore student majoring in finance at DePaul University, Maya Ocampo, does not like to put too much pressure on herself when she sets goals for the new year. Instead, she sets small goals to achieve throughout the year. In 2023, Ocampo plans to better her mental and physical health by making small lifestyle changes such as creating a better sleep schedule for herself and staying organized with her classes and personal life.
“I don’t have any expectations, but I think I will be more motivated to do things,” Ocampo said, “and I think I’ll be more active and overall feel healthier.”
Ocampo emphasizes that it is nice to have goals to work towards when there is a fresh start in the calendar, and this year she wishes to do things that will help further her career and success as a student.
The mere act of making New Year’s resolutions can help you focus on the future while simultaneously inspiring yourself and those around you. Goal setting, even with the most minute goals, can lead us to create positive lifestyle patterns that overall contribute to progressive behaviors within ourselves.
“We don’t experience life through large-scale events, we don’t experience life through large-scale changes, we experience life mostly through very small, incremental measures,” Scott said.
Header Illustration by Dayna Teemer