My blinking increases as I try to hold back my tears from escaping. I’m staring at the floor as my therapist is looking at me, waiting for me to answer her question. Her voice startles me as she begins to speak again. “Yvette? Are you okay? Tell me what’s been going on in your life.” […]
New Year’s is long over, yet new-year intentions are far from, inspiring reflection in both resolution- and non-resolution-makers. From striving towards popular health goals to relaying philosophies on why resolutions are counterintuitive compared to alternatives, LaGuardians resolve to better themselves in myriad ways as diverse as the community itself.
Physical health goals are a mainstay across genders and body types. Andrew Espinoza, Liberal Arts Social Science and Humanities major at LaGuardia Community College, says that despite his decision to skip the resolutions this year since “every time I do, they don’t resolve themselves,” he holds himself to exercise goals year-round in an effort to gain a six-pack. “I just want to keep working out so I could be shirtless in the summer,” says Mr. Espinoza.
How do such long-term intentions translate to the everyday? “I make sure every day I do something that applies to it,” says Doreen M. Nemorin, 31, LAGCC theatre alum ‘17 and a consistent New Year’s resolution-maker. “For instance, for weight loss, I do portion control, buy healthier foods, drink more water. So in like six months, I should be thick-light.”
The Science of Mental Resilience
How do resolution-makers keep themselves accountable? For Ms. Nemorin, referring back to her written or mental list of goals ensures she checks in with herself. Additionally, Ms. Nemorin self-checks her willpower: “If I find myself saying no a lot with a certain resolution, it becomes my main priority.”
The science backs it up: willpower, a quantifiable quota of self-control that individuals diminish daily and replenish overnight with adequate sleep and glucose intake, is best bolstered by focusing on one goal at a time, according to social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. Making too many commitments that deplete willpower can be self-sabotaging and counterproductive, writes Baumeister and co-author John Tierney in Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength: Willpower.
With a myriad of resolutions to keep, maintaining motivation year-round can be arduous. For Ms. Nemorin, a buddy system keeps her on track, as does a slew of celebrities or artists who serve as a kind of mentor to her. She follows their social media and looks for inspiration when she wishes to give up. Telling others about her goals also helps, as it is likely that they will ask her about her progress next time.
Social acceptance, which Ms. Nemorin taps into via her buddy accountability system, is a strong supporter of self-control because of individuals’ desire for peer approval, according to psychology experiments conducted on members of organizations that range from religious congregations to Alcoholics Anonymous.
“It’s gotten better,” says Ms. Nemorin. “I’ve realized some of my issues are not physical, it’s more mental… Sometimes you eat healthy, and sometimes you get yourself to do it by telling yourself ‘no, I’m doing this’…It’s a battle with your mentality. I step forward, and I step back, but I keep going, even with the stepbacks.”
The Case for Alternative Paths
New Year’s Resolutions are commonly seen as unrealistic even by the experts due partly to the emphasis on the individual going at them alone. “We can rationalize, make excuses…that’s why New Year’s resolutions don’t last,” Sandra Pradas Martin, a personal leadership coach who trains professional working parents as well as City University of New York “Crear Futuros” peer mentors.
One antidote to this resolution sabotage? Counting on support systems to help us achieve our goals. “That’s why there’s something really special and unique in finding your tribe because we’re not self-directed,” says Mrs. Pradas Martin. “We can be surrounded by toxic stuff…who’s that tribe that cheerleads us, champions us, and sees the best in us?”
The big-picture nature of one-time resolutions is also an issue, according to the communications coach. “That’s why New Year’s resolutions don’t work,” says Mrs. Pradas Martin. “We have this big goal in mind, but we don’t take the baby steps to get there. It’s like, really, you’re going to go from zero hours to five hours of exercise?”
Brian Goldstein, 64, exemplifies an alternate path to address these points through his goal-oriented work in and out of LGCC. Retired from a 21-year LaGuardia career that included roles such as Director of Campus Life, former Director of Athletics and Recreation, and co-creator of Web Radio, Mr. Goldstein is ardent about his goal-setting alternative to broad New Year’s Resolutions.
“When I decide what I want to do, I break it down into small steps,” says Mr. Goldstein. Since he wanted to get more engaged in theatre, Mr. Goldstein took a class with LAGCC Theatre Department Director Stefanie Sertich, enrolled in a playwriting course with the professional conservatory HB Studios, asked Ms. Sertich if he could assist a couple days a week in the upcoming LAGCC spring musical, and took an offer to act in a February filming of a wellness project alongside LAGCC theatre students.
For first-year theatre major Sheikhar Boodram, 21, the name is more crucial than the resolution. Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, Mr. Boodram made 2018 “The Year of Hope and Change.”
“When you name something, it has power,” he says. “When you name a child or a year, you’re creating meaning, and it becomes personal to you, and that’s how you grow.” Year-naming, which Mr. Boodram adopted from his pastor, helps individuals get in touch with their true desires outside of societal norms about career, or love, or resolutions, according to the transfer student, who hails from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
Finding a Middle Path
While Theatre major Jorge Pluas, 38, set his own resolutions this year “to see if it gives me more motivation…see how tight I am with my goals,” he has mixed feelings about the effectiveness of New Year’s resolutions, stating it ultimately lies within the individual’s willpower. “It’s like homework,” says Mr. Pluas. “If you actually want to do it, you’re going to do it. You’ll be responsible. For some people, it’s just things to say.”
Mr. Pluas also pointed out a common concern about resolutions being just another revenue-generating means of increasingly commercialized holidays. “I believe there’s always money involved in New Year’s resolutions. When you say I want to do this, or that, you need money for it.” Mr. Pluas’s own resolutions are money-oriented: making more than $50,000 this year, putting on his own theatre production, and getting out of the country more.
For others, New Year’s intentions are better geared towards life-quality goals versus quantity ones. “I don’t know, I feel like I always do resolutions,” says Nicole Zambrano, 23, a second-year Media Studies major. “The one I thought of was to move towards things I really want to do really aggressively because I’ve been so caught up with academics.”
Ms. Zambrano’s resolutions range from specific career-advancing moves such as making a film or starting a comedy channel to less tangible ones like traveling more and enjoying herself more this year.
Yet even for a resolution-maker like Ms. Zambrano, the yearly journey felt more important this year than the New Year’s resolutions. “It’s weird that I didn’t feel that way anymore–that sparkly, bubbly feeling,” she says. “Now it’s like, ‘OK, it’s just another year.’ I’ve come up from that–it’s about having goals to my tomb, instead of being harsh with myself.”