Darts stick out of a dartboard

A University Student’s Guide to Making Mindful Resolutions, and Sticking to Them

by Sara Nenada, 3rd year Biomedical Science

New Year resolutions: year after year we’ve made them, year after year they’ve been broken prematurely – unless you’re one of those really disciplined people who keeps them… in which case, why are you here? Resolutions do not have to be made solely at the turn of the year, but there is something really clean and special about starting a new year with an optimistic attitude. We feel as though this page turn will erase the negative attributes of the outgoing year; but in order to create any real change in our lives and ensure the new year is new in the way we want it to be, we must make meaningful resolutions and stick to them.

Boundary setting and taking space for myself has always been an issue that haunts me. One of my new year’s resolutions this year is to learn to advocate for myself and my own space in every aspect of my life. This is something that will take work, but it is important for me to maintain because it has caused me much grief, and led me into some unhealthy relationships that promoted toxic behaviour; this is the meaning behind this year’s resolution, and it’s driving me to stick to it.

Identifying the right resolution and affiliated actions is hard work, because it requires you to pause and genuinely evaluate your life. This sort of introspection, in order to be effective, must be ruthless, and may require an uncomfortable amount of – ugh – soul searching. So, make yourself some tea or coffee, and take a seat, because you’ll be going on a journey with yourself, hopefully to get to the bottom of what it is that you want to take from life, and give back to the world in 2017. Get started by asking yourself some key questions (below) that will help you get to know yourself better.

Key questions to ask yourself while making your resolutions:

  • Why have my New Year’s resolutions been broken before?
  • How can I make this year’s resolutions different?
  • What makes me happy when I first get out of bed in the morning?
  • Is there something that I used to do that brought me peace or happiness that I haven’t had time for?
  • Am I spending my time effectively?
  • What makes me sad? Do I have control over the things that make me sad? Think hard about this one. The answer might be “yes”.
  • What am I missing in my life? Why is it missing in my life? What can I do to make it manifest?

The next step is actually sticking to your resolutions, even months after your initial spurt of motivation. Below are some helpful to keep motivation going throughout the year:

Make your resolution meaningful and realistic. How are meaningful resolutions made? By finding the things that are near and dear to your heart, that genuinely affect you, and working with those as your main area of focus. These are the two key components of an attainable New Year’s resolution: realistic goal will ensure its completion, but a meaningful one will ensure perpetual motivation to drive it forward. Think about the person you were. It might be beneficial to ask your friends and loved ones to give you an honest perspective on the experiences they shared with you. Is their feedback consistent with who you want to be? Identify any gaps, and then bridge these gaps with action.

Break it down into subtasks that you can schedule. Subtasks will help keep you motivated to continue, as you will feel accomplished when you complete smaller steps in a larger process. This makes the resolution as a whole, much more manageable and decreases your chances of feeling overwhelmed or losing motivation.

Don’t expect instant results. We often seek instant gratification and lose motivation to continue working when we don’t get it. This is problematic behaviour, and needs to be catered to in order to achieve larger goals that require planning and dedication. This ties back into creating subtasks, and this can be bypassed by keeping the subtask completion frequent enough that the completion of the subtasks motivate us to do better.

Share your resolution with friends and family. There are a couple reasons why this is beneficial, and they depend on what drives your personality type. If you find that you are a competitive individual, then sharing it with your friends and family may engage your competitive side, especially if someone enters into a mutual agreement of resolution accountability with you. If you are a people-pleasing individual, sharing may encourage you to keep it up so that you can make your loved ones happy and proud. Work with yourself to create meaningful resolutions and culture to motivate you to succeed.

Put up visual cues as daily reminders of your goals. Whether this means taking on a DIY art project and making a décor piece out of it, or setting reminders on your Google calendar, making your goal visual will help you keep yourself accountable.

Make it fun. This is your journey to embark on for your own personal growth. Add your own flare to it! Make this a challenge to pursue unexplored methods for achieving a goal, or try to inspire others to achieve their goals throughout your process. You can use this as an opportunity to try on different metaphorical hats and see what personality traits you enjoy and wish to adopt. Or, as mentioned above, you can turn it into a competition with your friends. Alternatively, you could also work on a reward system, where whenever you complete a subtask, you treat yourself to something you enjoy. Whatever it is that riles up your inspiration, find it and utilize it.

It’s ok to fail, but try not to give up. One of the hardest lessons to be learned in life, is embracing vulnerability, loving yourself and gently encouraging yourself to keep trying, in the face of adversity.
The last thing to note is the importance of continued self-reflection. Reviewing your progress and methods regularly is important for achieving your goal. Pay attention to yourself, and how you respond as you progress. You may find passion in things you didn’t know you cared for! It is important to be comfortable revising your resolution plan as your progress, as you will likely change in this process; what worked for January you may not work for May you, which in itself is an exciting thing!

This process requires patience, ongoing self-reflection, and a lot of motivation and drive. But, it can be done, and it can be done by you. Good luck!


Sara Nenada is a Doctor Who-loving, caffeine dependent life form that enjoys learning, reading, and dreaming! She is also a 3rd year Biomedical Science student at Ryerson University. Her passion is helping to establish safe spaces for students to pursue personal growth, and is involved in groups focused on this inside and outside the Faculty of Science. For any further questions or inquiries, contact Sara at sara.nenada@ryerson.ca