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Tips for making New Year's resolutions

The coming of 2012 is a time for celebration, for watching the ball drop and for reviewing favorites of the past while looking forward with high hopes toward what is to come. Yet, it is also the occasion for another important tradition: New Year's resolutions. Whether setting goals for the future is an event you dread or a custom you enjoy using for self-improvement, keeping them is often a challenge.

If this year, however, you are serious about making a commitment to do better or just want to attempt something new, here are some tips for making practical and attainable New Year's resolutions that you can maintain throughout the year.

•*Reflect upon areas of your life that you want to change. Often, it is easy to aim for something simple to accomplish and that isn't really important to you in order to effortlessly uphold a promise, but what's the benefit of dedicating yourself if you don't care about it? This year, take some of the free time during winter break and truly ponder some of your difficulties or weaknesses that you know could use some help. Do you spend too much time online, texting or with other electronics? Cram when studying for tests the day before? Pick fights with your siblings or parents for no reason? When you examine your behaviors or attitudes at school, home, after-school activities and sports, you are able to effectively analyze what will be most constructive for you to work on that also tests your character.

*Focus and organize your goal. Once you have made a decision on what aspect in your life to strive toward making a difference in, clearly specify a certain objective that you will achieve during the year. Many times it can be alarming if you leave the details of your resolution too vague, causing you to drop the entire plan because you are too overwhelmed rather than scaling back on your expectations. For instance, if you want do better in academics, choose one school subject that you are struggling with and concentrate on significantly raising your grade. Maybe you could get extra help or review what you've learned on your own to enhance your comprehension.

Although this does not mean you should not work to your best ability in every class, it will be more valuable to successfully improve in a single subject than to be stressed by the demand of increasing your grades in all of them, and you will be able to transfer the skills and good habits that you have made in the one to the other classes.

As you are condensing your ideas, be sure to write them down as well. When your thoughts become visible on paper, it becomes easier to refine and coordinate a strategy of action that is tangible to you.

*Have someone to hold you accountable. On your own, it's easy to stray from your goals or to get lost in the process along the way. Yet, when you decide to let other individuals get involved in your resolution, you both gain support as well as someone who can check up on your development along the way. Whether it is a parent, relative or friend, as long as the person is trustworthy and encouraging of your ambitions, they will be an anchor when you feel like the task is impossible and will put pressure on you to stick to your plan instead of quitting when you would rather give up.

*Take small steps. Creating a lasting change to your life may take longer than you think to adjust, and rushing into completing your purpose can cause you to backtrack and fall into old routines. For example, if you want to establish a healthy diet, removing all your junk food at once will probably only cause you to crave it more and possibly abandon your goal. However, if you slowly decrease the unhealthy food while introducing a nutritious diet, you will be more likely to develop self-control over what you eat. Knowing yourself and your own limitations will guide you to how much change you will be able to handle.

*Reward yourself. Positive reinforcement after you have made some strides toward your objective will help you to continue on when it gets tough, so congratulate yourself for persevering despite the struggle!

Ultimately, it is not a set of guidelines, but your own determination to change and positive mind-set that will see you through and enable you to make improvements in the coming year.

Monica Wrobel is a junior at Immaculata Academy.