How New Year’s Has Changed 

Jacob McIntyre, Staff Writer

Setting New Year’s goals is a long-standing tradition, but it has changed dramatically in recent years. Different goals are being set, changing from advancements in job and skill related areas to focusing on family and health related self-improvements. As people age, they set different goals, and at different frequencies. Still, this tradition remains strong with over 70 percent of Americans setting goals each year according to Finder. 

New Year’s resolutions have been around for a long time. Babylonians made promises for the new year over 4,000 years ago according to History. Since the Romans people have been praying and reaffirming religious vows. In the 19th century resolutions for the new year became common in the Western world. New year’s holidays are practiced both in parts of the Eastern and Western world, with different traditions. Nevertheless, they always incorporate ideas about self-improvement and beginning the new year better than the last. 

In 2019, spending more time with family and friends was not as important to people, not even in the top ten most common resolutions according to Vitagene. That turned around in 2021 when spending more time with family and friends was the third most popular goal, with 34 percent of people aiming to spend more time with friends and family according to Statistica. An even more stark difference was found with getting rid of or engaging less with addictions. In 2021, 24 percent of people made goals to cut down on social media time, 19 percent to quit smoking, and 15 percent to reduce alcohol use. These problems could have been enhanced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially since in 2019 these resolutions were much less of a focus. In 2019, only 10 percent of people made resolutions to quit smoking and 8 percent to reduce alcohol use. Exercise goals dropped from 2019 to 2021, going from 59 percent to 44 percent of people making exercising resolutions. Some things stayed the same, from 2019 to 2021 staying on a budget and spending less stayed steady at about 30 percent of people. While adults focus on budgeting and jobs, students are far more likely to set goals to improve academics. Freshman Brian Kong says he focuses on “academic goals and improvements.” 

Some of these goals are easier to keep than others. 32 percent of people think that diet changes are the hardest goals to keep, while only 26 percent of people thought that self-development goals were difficult. People will overestimate their chances of keeping goals significantly. While only 12 percent of people succeeded in their goals, 52 percent were confident at the start of the year that they could keep their resolution. Of those that succeed, only 11 percent of people can keep their goal indefinitely, and around 80 percent can keep their goal till the next New Year’s, according to Vitagene. 

New year’s goals can be achieved with a high success rate, provided the right methods are used. Documenting goals and setting micro goals boosts success rates dramatically. Senior Emma Crothers keeps “short and measurable” goals to be successful. In addition to providing pressure to do work, micro goals serve as a backup system if the original goal is unrealistic in scope. Peer pressure also helps people stay on track. Reminders from people or even being encouraged by someone with a similar goal improves the chances of staying motivated. By far, the best way to accomplish goals is to put them into a schedule, ensuring that the day never becomes too busy. With the right reasons and planning, you can still be optimistic. Junior Anish Bhamidipati still says after knowing that only 12 percent succeed that “New Year’s goals are helpful for starting the year better than the last.”  

This difficulty in keeping goals may explain why the goal setting tradition drops off so heavily with age. 91 percent of Gen Z will set a goal, and 60 percent will later admit that they did not have the will power to complete it. Being too busy and forgetting goals is more common with older generations. only 4 percent of Gen Z say that forgetfulness is to blame, whereas 12 percent of Millennials say forgetting is why they did not accomplish their goal. The Silent Generation, age 77-95, only make resolutions 46 percent of time. Those that still make goals into their later years are less likely to stop due to lack of willpower, with only 52 percent citing lack of willpower as why they failed. The silent generation is also the least likely to confidently say they will succeed out of the bunch, according to Finder. Many are still optimistic. Sophomore Myah Tuupo says that she “always sets resolutions” even though it’s difficult to keep resolutions. 

All in all, New Year’s is a good time to set goals, though all the classic goal setting standards are still effective anytime. From the old to the young, from academics to dieting, making a schedule and a plan always helps. The New Year’s traditions are always changing, but self-improvement year after year will stick around for a while yet.