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New Year's Resolutions - should teachers set them?

Updated: Dec 20, 2022

New year’s resolutions are the world’s most well-known form of goalsetting. At the end of 2020, despite a year of pandemic-fueled uncertainty, an estimated 1 in 5 Britons made resolutions for 2021 (YouGov), meaning that around 12.7 million people set resolutions in the UK alone.

Despite their popularity, resolutions can be like goalsetting marmite - people either love making them, or view them as a waste of time.

Should we bother setting new year’s resolutions? What are the benefits of setting them versus the disadvantages?
A spiralbound teacher's notebook is open, surrounded by paper clips. The diary is open on the calendar page.

Starting with the negatives, the reputation of new year’s resolutions can often overshadow the practice. The infamous failure rate can be enough to deter people from trying to set resolutions. If 23% of 2020’s resolution makers did not keep any of their resolutions, and 48% only kept to some (YouGov), a prominent doubt arises… why even try?

Furthermore, with added life inconsistencies created by the pandemic, the odds of ‘failing’ can feel almost inevitable. Why hold ourselves to a new standard and create undue stress if unexpected barriers may crop up… and all we’re setting ourselves up for is disappointment?

However, there are many positives for goalsetting and new year’s resolutions! The new year can be a time of change, therefore resolutions adopting a new habit or hobby can provide a form of stability beneficial for mental health and wellbeing. Resolutions can also have a large focus on self-care and wellbeing; mental health goals accounted for just under a third (29%) of resolutions for 2021 (GoCompare).

Setting goals at the start of the new year can generate a sense of focus, direction, and motivation - especially as the most common and popular new year’s resolutions tend to be based around health, diet, exercise, pursuing a career ambition, and/or doing volunteer work (Statista). During the ongoing pandemic, setting goals leads to focusing on things within our sphere of control, thus reducing the stress of external factors. For professions currently experiencing a high level of stress, such as teachers, having personal goals and resolutions can be beneficial to mental health and work-life balance.

You don’t necessarily need to set resolutions; you shouldn’t wait until the new year to pursue goals if you want to set them. But the new year can give a sense of renewal and inspiration to achieve aspirations, so if you want to set resolutions, go ahead! Don’t be deterred by negative preconceptions surrounding resolutions - there can be many advantages to setting goals around the new year!

Great! Let’s set some resolutions! But… how do we make new year’s resolutions work effectively?

The way to make brilliant resolutions is to follow the method of values-based goalsetting. When coming up with your new year’s resolutions, it is key to think of your reasoning for them. Resolutions with clear motivation are often more fruitful and long-lasting.

A spiralbound notebook is open on a desk, surrounded by stationery and a cup of tea. On the page reads '2022: Goal'
  • Start by thinking of your values, ie. what’s most important for you to embody or strive towards. Some may think of these values as complex ideas, but they can often be summarised and understood in one word - such as honesty, compassion, environmentalism, positivity, etc.

  • Once you’ve identified your values, think about what you want to achieve.

  • You then attach this to an aligning value to create a new year’s resolution.

Goals and resolutions based on and connected to values have more staying power. There is a higher chance of success, as they are linked to your core beliefs, everyday life, and character.

The process can also be done the opposite way around, through the choosing of an idea for a resolution, and then assigning it to one of your values for increased longevity.

Waking up on New Year’s Day and deciding to try vegetarianism for a year is a start to a resolution. But without understanding your motivation and own values for doing so - whether it’s health, compassion, or another value - you may find it harder to keep. Spontaneous resolutions are not bad; they can be quite inspirational and fun! However, helping them persist requires introspection into your deeper motivations. Involving personal values reminds you of why you decided to attempt reaching the goal, and will make resolutions stronger.

For a highly detailed breakdown of values-based goalsetting, check out this article from the youHQ e-resource library.

As well as linking values to it, make the resolution SMART. The acronym SMART means:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Time-bound

Make sure your goal complies to each part of the SMART framework - your chance of sticking to your goal increases if you do! You can see the SMART acronym in practice in the image below:

Infographic table for SMART goalsetting. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

To conclude: making your resolutions in the form of values-based SMART goals should hopefully lead to a better chance of changing your life and sticking to the resolution. But at the end of the day, new year’s resolution goalsetting is supposed to be fun, so please try to enjoy yourself and not take it too seriously. As long as you stick to the right intention or value for your resolution, it doesn’t matter if you ‘fail’ or lose sight of your goal at some point in the year. Several short-term goals throughout a period of time can be just as brilliant as more extensive year-long ones.

We hope this advice and resolution making process can help some of you, especially key workers and teachers, in setting goals to improve your mental and physical health. Good luck and happy new year!


This article was created by the team behind youHQ, a school wellbeing and personal development platform. We believe in helping the mental health of teachers and students through values-based goalsetting and the right wellbeing support. Learn more about our work and our platform here and sign up for a free six-week trial.

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