New year is a new start for many

By Ciera Johnson, Staff Writer

January is often viewed as a new start, a new year with the possibility of new beginnings. As a result, many people make New Year’s resolutions with the hopes of breaking old habits or implementing dramatic lifestyle changes. And yet, as the end of the month draws near, it becomes apparent that very few people see these goals through.

Dr. Jonathan Thomas-Stagg, a Champaign-based psychologist with the Evergreen Coaching and Counseling Services Inc., explains the psychology behind this phenomenon.

“Whenever we start a new year, people start thinking about life changes that they want to see,” Stagg said. “I know that people consider those things throughout the year as well, but I think that when we think of New Year’s resolutions, that’s the time that people want to start changing something in their life.”

Stagg, a specialist in life-coaching, school issues and testing and evaluation, said goals without a plan of action don’t yield results.

“People often have a hard time setting goals,” he said. “They may not set the most realistic goals for themselves. They might get overzealous in terms of when to change something big, without having much of a plan to do it.”

Get The Daily Illini in your inbox!

  • Catch the latest on University of Illinois news, sports, and more. Delivered every weekday.
  • Stay up to date on all things Illini sports. Delivered every Monday.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.
Thank you for subscribing!

Imani Harrison, a licensed counselor with Evergreen Coaching and Counseling, says college provides a time in one’s life for intention-setting and creating lifelong habits.

“College is such a good time for self-exploration,” she said. “And it’s also a great time to learn how to set goals, because once you get out of college if you haven’t put those fundamentals in place, it is difficult because you have so many things attacking you at the same time.”

Harrison’s expertise is in child and adolescent life-coaching and anxiety. She says New Year’s resolutions, or goals in general, can be ruined by social media and the tendency for comparison it fosters in young people.

“Social media is great and wonderful,” she said. “But it also can be hard, because we often compare ourselves to what (other) people are doing.”

Being intentional about social media consumption can actually cause one to cultivate a positive virtual support system, Harrison said.

“You can find different people to follow or friends to add that can also provide you encouragement and not just be somebody you’re comparing yourself to,” she said.

Stagg said there are multiple online resources, like, that can make goal-setting and progress-checking easier and hold people accountable.

“It’s really great because you set a coach, you set some stakes for your behavior change, and there’s a user community who use Stickk that are working towards the same goals that you’re working towards,” he said. “So it kind of sets people up for success that way.”

Harrison also said people should be realistic about what goals are actually attainable, so they can set themselves up for success.

“The thing that I recommend is picking one goal to start with, using your priority and starting there and kind of working your way up,” she said. “Once you reach that goal … or whatever you’re doing to reach that goal has become a habit, then you may be able to tackle something else.”

She encourages goal-setters to use pen and paper during their resolution-setting processing.

“One of the best things to do is to write it down,” she said. “A lot of times if we write stuff down, it helps us remain accountable.”

New Year’s resolutions can encompass more than health and wellness goals too. Allan Sokol, freshman in LAS, has entrepreneurial goals to grow his startup Promote Properly. He believes in working on goals when inspiration strikes, not only at the start of the new year.

“I’m a big believer in starting today,” Sokol said. “A lot of people will say, ‘Maybe later, I’m too busy right now, I’ve got all of these things going on in my life.’ But if you’ve got an idea, or something that you’ve been thinking about, the chance is that it’s already taken -— or will be taken really soon — so you gotta get to it right now … if you’ve been thinking about it, that’s telling you something, you really should go for it.”

[email protected]