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FUCHS: In order to realistically achieve New Year's resolutions, discipline is required

Column: Questioning Jules

To succeed with our New Year's resolutions, we need to embrace reality, remain disciplined and find joy in life. – Photo by @MichaelHullNYC / Twitter

At the beginning of each year, people make a list of goals they would like to achieve during the next 365 days and set out with high hopes of achieving the goals they set for themselves. Unfortunately, one of the biggest misconceptions that society perpetuates is that New Year’s resolutions never end up working out.

Some of the most popular resolutions include getting into shape, eating healthier, reading more or even learning a new skill. None of these goals are impossible to achieve, but rather require discipline and dedication.

In recent years, it has become the norm to debunk people’s New Year's resolutions or not even bother making one due to the belief that it will not be achieved — that eventually you will give up on it and that you will ultimately fail and disappoint yourself. Especially given the pandemic and all of the negativity that came along with it, it has been hard to stay positive and motivated to improve yourself.

The thing is, New Year’s resolutions can absolutely be followed through, and they do not have to be silly little promises that we make for ourselves to ultimately break. The issue is not necessarily motivation but a lack of discipline and consistency.

I previously wrote a piece for The Daily Targum about the importance of discipline and how it is more important than mere motivation and inspiration. Ultimately, I believe that the three main secrets to achieving your New Year’s resolutions are discipline, reality and joy.

To be disciplined is to make a promise to yourself and stick to it no matter how hard things get. For example, I recently began working out in the gym (this was a few weeks before New Year’s day, so it is not exactly a resolution). There are many days when I wake up in the morning and simply do not feel like going. There are also days when I have a lot going on, and it is hard to find time to take out of my day and go to the gym.

But when I decided to start working out and change my life, I committed to going to the gym five times a week. The most difficult part is getting into the habit of going to the gym (or doing whatever your resolution is) consistently.

Changes in your daily routine can be hard to adjust to, and the early days of adjusting definitely require the utmost discipline and consistency. But once I was in the habit of going to the gym, it became so ingrained in my schedule that I feel weird if I miss a day.

Even on my rest days, I feel upset that I did not go to work out. Building the habit is the hardest part of the process, which is why discipline is so important. Once habits are established, you have more freedom to make minor adjustments.

The second part of keeping to a resolution is reality. There have been several points in my life where I have tried to go to the gym consistently. I would show up and work my absolute hardest for the first few days to make up for all the time that I did not go to the gym. Although I felt great after these workouts, after about a week, I stopped going to the gym regularly. I would be so sore from going so hard that I was deterred from showing up.

It is important to be realistic about your resolutions and expect slow and steady progress. Especially with fitness and weight loss-related goals, it can be easy to lose motivation due to how long it can take to see results. I personally would become very impatient when I did not see any immediate improvement in my weight and overall health.

For this year, though, I did the research and crafted a workout routine suited for a beginner. I began with a light elliptical workout or running for 30 minutes. Nothing more, and nothing less. As I became used to the gym, I started to add to my routine.

I now work out for about 2 hours, which includes an hour and a half of cardio and half an hour of strength training. It took me a few weeks to get to this point, and I am still adjusting to this change in my routine. It is important to be realistic and start small as you become more used to your new habits, after which you can build upon them.

Finally, it is important to feel joy in your resolution and have fun. The entire point of a resolution is to improve your life in one way or another. If you are not enjoying yourself, then you will not stick with it. 

Along with exercising, I am also trying to eat healthier. To make it fun, I look for different recipes and figure out how I can make healthy alternatives to my favorite snacks and coffee drinks. I also have a fun playlist to listen to while I work out which makes me feel more energized. Have fun with your resolution, and remember to not take yourself too seriously.

2023 has lots of potential as any new year does. Stop making excuses and doubting yourself. If you want something, work for it. And by this time next year, you will have achieved your goal!

Julia Fuchs is a graduate student in the Department of Art History studying cultural heritage and preservation. Her column, "Questioning Jules," runs on alternate Thursdays.

*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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