Opinion Blog

Ask a Psychologist

Helping Students Thrive Now

Angela Duckworth and other behavioral-science experts offer advice to teachers based on scientific research. Read more from this blog.

Student Well-Being Opinion

You Made a New Year’s Resolution but You Didn’t Keep It. Now What?

How to adjust when things don’t go as planned
By Angela Duckworth — February 15, 2023 1 min read
What can I do to jump-start my New Year's resolution?
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

What can I do to jump-start my New Year’s resolution?

Making progress toward a goal sometimes means figuring out what to do when things go awry. Here’s something I wrote about the topic for Character Lab as a Tip of the Week:

Once you’ve set out to achieve a goal and made a plan specifying when, where, and how to do so, what comes next?

Well, quite obviously, you enact your plan. You do what you said you’d do.

Or you don’t.

In fact, the plans of even the most capable adults and children don’t always proceed exactly as expected. This is why there are age-old expressions about how the best-laid plans of mice and men frequently go awry.

Say, for example, I don’t end up going to the gym three weekday mornings every week. What now? Do I give up on my exercise goal entirely? Do I conclude that planning is futile?

Let me suggest that noticing that your plan needs revision is itself a victory. If you know you’re not making progress—either on your planned behavior or the outcome it was intended to bring about—you’re at least keeping your eye on the ball. Kudos!

The intentional and consistent observation of your own behavior is called self-monitoring.

The benefits of self-monitoring are two-fold.

First, self-monitoring directly counters the ostrich problem—the deliberate avoidance of information that might cause you distress. Part of you doesn’t want to know how things are going in case, you know, things aren’t going so well.

Second, self-monitoring facilitates learning. Once I realize I’m not getting to the gym, I can ask myself why. Perhaps I’ll discover that my gym routine is sort of boring and I should try jogging or yoga instead. Or that I need to motivate myself by bundling the chore of going to the gym with something I absolutely love to do—like talk to my best friend on the phone or watch episodes of Top Chef. I’ve learned something about myself, and that information can help me improve my plan.

Don’t assume that a failed plan is a failure. Plans often need more than a little tweaking to get right.

Do record your progress in a journal or app and, ideally, commit to sharing that information with at least one other person. The idea is to keep reality in full view—and your head out of the sand.

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Ask a Psychologist: Helping Students Thrive Now are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Q&A How to Address Parents' Concerns That SEL Goes Against Their Values
A Texas instructional coach shares insights she has learned from talking with hesitant parents.
3 min read
Illustration concept of emotional intelligence, showing a woman balancing emotion control using her hand to balance smile and sad face icons.
Student Well-Being Pause Before You Post: A Social Media Guide for Educators in Tense Political Times
5 tips for educators and their students to avoid making harmful or false statements online that they later regret.
6 min read
Tight crop of a man's hands using a mobile phone with the popup box that reads "Delete post, Are you sure you want to delete this post? Cancel or Delete"
Gina Tomko/Education Week + Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion What Does the Dangerous Political Climate Mean for Schools?
Educators and researchers offer advice for navigating political polarization in the classroom.
5 min read
Grunge Collage styled urban graphic of US election
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being Q&A Why Educators Need to Better Understand What Drives Kids' Cellphone Addictions
As more school and day-to-day tasks are completed on smartphones and computers, teens struggle to manage their screen time.
3 min read
Young man and woman without energy on giant phone screen with speech and heart icons above them. Addiction. Contemporary art collage. Concept of social media, influence, online communication
Vanessa Solis/Education Week + iStock