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January 6, 2023

Did you make one this year? Getting healthier? Pursuing a new project? Investing in a new challenge? Resurrecting old friendships? If so, you are – according to the polling company, YouGov – part of the 21% of the population who have done so this year. This is up from the 14% who made one in January 2022.

The main argument against the establishment of a New Year’s resolution is seemingly that we lack the resilience and commitment, and/or the time and ability to make them stick. Most Britons will ultimately give up on their resolution, most commonly in January itself. As such, what is the point of them?

I am a passionate believer in New Year’s resolutions, though cannot always claim success in achieving them. Last year, 2022, I promised myself that I would take more opportunities to get outside and appreciate my surroundings. Whilst it started well, the cold and wet mornings and evenings of January soon put an end to that. During the sweltering summer, I could not have imagined anything worse. There were always excuses available to me. The best that I could claim to accomplish was the twenty minutes on the gate each morning of the Autumn Term. To be honest, I have loved doing this and it became my professional New (academic) Year’s resolution when I took over as Head in September. Every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday morning I take myself outside. I have only missed it once.

So, does the likelihood of not seeing though a resolution for 365 days undermines the power of them? I would argue not. For me, New Year’s resolutions offer an opportunity for us to reflect on where we are at in our lives. Are we happy? Do we know what we want? Can we identify factors that are holding us back? What should we be grateful for? All of these are questions which can be answered (sometimes, painfully honestly) when we start to think about challenges and targets for the year ahead. This time of self-reflection is an important one if we are to continually grow as a person. Even if the resolution is not achieved, the reflection serves as a powerful tool in becoming the absolute best that we can be.

Moreover, making New Year’s resolutions is hopeful and optimistic. In doing so, you plan and prepare for things to improve and get better in your life, for your work experience, your family or for your community. This positive view of the future, in turn, generally leads to motivate action. If you do not believe tomorrow can be better, you’re unlikely to take steps to improve. Consequently, optimism is doubly helpful; to your own mental health and wellbeing, but also driving action which has a purposeful impact on those around you. It also serves to make us role models, as others notice our cues of self-improvement, we inspire them to do the same.

As such, this year my resolution is to spend more time for myself and with family and friends. Taking on new challenges is fantastic, but it is also important to remember where you have come from and those who have supported you on your journey. It is also important to remember that you are a person, not a job title nor two-dimensional. In the business and pace of the modern world, we can sometimes lose touch and connection with those most important to us, including ourselves. So, I resolve to call friends and family more, rather than text on WhatsApp; to go back to Oxford at least once a month to see family and friends in person rather than on Zoom and to find new ways to nurture and grow my individual passions for theatre, politics, cooking and reading in the Hertfordshire area.

I do not know if I will succeed or fail to maintain these resolutions over the next twelve-months, but the intention is honourable. I would encourage you, if you are still reading this, to think about yourself and consider what small resolutions or changes might make things better for you and those around you this year?

Good luck.


James Nichols