New Year, New Me?
As a new year begins, one writer investigates Dartmouth student’s love-hate relationship with New Year’s resolutions.
My family has never been one to celebrate New Year’s Eve. By the time the ball drops, we’re usually asleep. As a result, the beginning of the new year has never felt much like an occasion to set drastic goals, and I’ve often preferred to set seasonal goals instead of year-long resolutions. This has grown even more true at Dartmouth, where each term is so drastically different that it would be almost impossible to come up with a laundry list of unifying goals.
Yet, as I’ve spent the past week reflecting on other resolutions, I’ve come up with two of my own — albeit a few weeks late. After drinking a can of Diet Coke almost every day that I was home over winterim, my biggest resolution is to cut back on my diet soda consumption. And when visiting a high school friend taking a sign language class at her university, I resolved to improve my sign language skills beyond the baby sign language I learned as a child.
With these in mind, I wanted to hear from other students about their resolutions. Goals varied widely and ranged from exercise to partaking in outdoor activities to interpersonal development. For example, Lily Maechling ’23 made resolutions around spending time outside this winter.
“I want to take advantage of my last winter term at Dartmouth and get outside a lot, especially through snowboarding,” she said. “I want to break my snowboarding speed record and break my Killington record of going to Killington more than 18 days during the term.”
Justin Pavan ’25 also made several resolutions, though each centered on a different area of his life.
“My first resolution is limiting my phone screen time to less than an hour per day,” Pavan said. “My second is not eating dessert at Foco and my third is exercising at least once per day.”
Based on the hordes of people packed into Alumni Gym last week, it seems as though Pavan wasn’t alone in making this last resolution. Meanwhile, Kevin Mahoney ’25 made resolutions that focused on interpersonal relationships.
“I want to spend more time with my family … I realized that I’m seeing people get older, and I made this resolution more out of the fear of not taking full advantage of time with them,” Mahoney said.
Many students found that coming to Dartmouth has changed their resolutions. Mahoney pointed out that the pace of the quarter system inspired him to make his resolutions relationship-centered.
“Dartmouth has changed my view on a lot of things because the quarter system is so fast here,” he said. “It made me realize the importance of spending time with friends.”
Maechling also said that her resolutions have shifted depending on her surroundings, such as the access to the outdoors at Dartmouth.
“I think my resolutions have become more outdoors-focused by nature of Dartmouth having more outdoor opportunities,” she said. “The activities that I’m engaged in are also different from what I was engaged in during high school, and my goals are generally related to what I’m currently doing.”
Lexi Chelle ’25 said that her resolutions have narrowed in scope since starting college.
“Before coming to Dartmouth, there were more things that I couldn’t necessarily control that I wanted to control, so my resolutions focused on that,” she said. “If I were to make resolutions now, they would be more attainable and something I could actually measure, instead of making one blanket statement to define my year.”
Amelia Hartshorn ’25 echoed this, pointing out that she has also shifted her focus away from bigger resolutions in favor of smaller ones.
“My resolutions in high school were more lofty and aspirational, but now it’s about the day to day and just getting through it.”
Despite these efforts to set attainable resolutions, few of the students that I spoke to had resolution success stories. Pavan noted that, on average, he sticks to his resolutions for only “a few months.”
“The reason why I often break them is because I forget that I made them,” Pavan said. “Maybe that means they weren’t as meaningful as they should have been.”
Mahoney said that breaking his resolutions serves as his sign to find different goals.
“If I break them, it means that I didn’t want them bad enough,” he said. “I need to find better goals that I can actually achieve.”
Hartshorn found that the prospect of sticking to a goal for an entire year often leads to failure. She said she prefers to set weekly goals, citing the book “Atomic Habits” as informing her approach, which emphasizes setting smaller, achievable goals.
“If you just change one little thing every day and make a hundred things one percent better, that’s going to be more worth it than focusing on one thing and trying to make this giant change,” she said.
Chelle said that rather than making resolutions only at the start of each year, she sets goals when they occur to her.
“It doesn’t make sense to make resolutions just because it’s a new year,” she said. “You’re allowed to make goals at any time, and if I’m feeling like I want to change something in my life, I’ll just make it a goal at that time instead of waiting until a new year.”
Mahoney agreed that Jan. 1 doesn’t always need to serve as a starting point for new goals.
“One of my goals was to get my dog in shape, but I was able to accomplish that over winterim,” he said. “New Year’s resolutions are kind of silly — why not start before the new year?”
After all, so much change occurs throughout a year that it can be difficult to even imagine what your goals might be next December.
“Forget about the person you could be in a year,” Mahoney said. “Think about the person you could be in a month.”