Deborah Cohen, Ph.D., Oakwood School Counselor
The practice of making New Year’s resolutions – vowing to do better and be better -- dates back to the ancient Babylonians, 4000 years ago. In our culture today, January is when many of us do the same. We commit to eating healthier, exercising more, giving up bad habits, acquiring good habits, etc. The list can go on and on. Often our New Year’s goals are ones that we’ve had for a while, but just can’t seem to make happen. It seems that we pursue them anew in January, hoping that the clean start of a fresh year will give us the motivation we have lacked in the past. The disappointing truth is that while approximately 45% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, only 8% keep them. These statistics suggest that making New Year’s resolutions may be setting ourselves up to fail or to feel bad.
What if, in the New Year, instead of focusing on ways we need to improve, we reflected on what we have already accomplished in the past year?
When I reflect on the past year, I know I have seen EVERYONE in our school community working hard – students, teachers, and parents. I am particularly impressed with how hard our students work every day. For many, prior to Oakwood, school had negative associations, so even happily coming to school every day is an achievement. Our students practice a Growth Mindset, and thus approach difficult tasks with dedication and perseverance daily. And families are working hard as well – getting kids to and from school, overseeing routines, monitoring homework, arranging for supplemental services and therapies – all for the purpose of maximizing their children’s growth. There are many big and small ways that every student has made progress in the past year. There is much that’s happened within our school community to note and to celebrate!
So this January, perhaps we can be gentle with ourselves. If resolutions are motivating and invigorating, go for it! But if they feel like one more thing on an already full plate, consider reflecting backwards and counting all the accomplishments, hard work and joys that you and your families have enjoyed over the last year. Noticing what’s good, being grateful for what you have, and being kind to yourself is a sure-fire recipe for a Happy New Year!