aoife casson new years resolutions

7th January 2022 • Aoife Casson

As a new year begins, many of us will be setting ourselves targets and challenges for the year ahead. MFON columnist Aoife Casson explains how young people with additional needs could approach goal setting and shares her new year’s resolution.  

New year’s resolutions, what’s the big deal? Every year, we set one with high expectations, to change our weight, eat healthier, save more money or quit a bad habit. Yet, studies show that only 35% of those who made resolutions in 2020 kept to all of them (source). And keeping to a new year’s resolution is especially difficult if you’ve got a fluctuating disability or condition. My autism means that I experience periods of hyper-focus and productivity, followed by low-energy days filled with anxiety that keep me from doing things. As with many disabilities, there’s no rhyme or reason to how these days come about, and this can make it very difficult to set goals. So much so, that I’ve often just given up on the idea of new year’s resolutions altogether! Why bother setting myself a goal when I don’t know if I’ll even be able to achieve it? That’s just setting myself up for disappointment. 

How to set yourself goals  

Having said all that, a 2002 study showed that people who set a new year’s resolution are over 11 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t. If a new year’s resolution is so effective at helping people succeed, it might be worth setting one! 

If you look up advice on how to set yourself goals, you’ll likely come across the concept of SMART targets. It’s an acronym that helps you make an excellent goal and maximises your chances of success. A SMART goal should be: 

  • Sensible 
  • Measurable 
  • Achievable 
  • Relevant 
  • Time-bound 

They’re great for setting yourself a work or study target as they set out a clear path to reaching your goal. For example, ‘I’m going to get 80% in my next test’ is much better than ‘I’m going to do amazingly in all my exams’ because it gives you a clear, achievable goal and you’ll know when you’ve hit it. 

But here’s my hot take: SMART targets aren’t always practical for people with fluctuating conditions. They can seem impossible on our down days and far too easy on our up days. Then we end up feeling guilty for not being able to achieve them when our disabilities prevent it. So, this year, I’m setting an un-smart target! Nothing measured or time-bound, just something that I can work towards a little bit here and there. Here are some examples: 

  • Make some friends 
  • Try new experiences 
  • Look after my physical and mental health – without feeling guilty about it 
  • Move in a way that feels good to me 
  • Be kinder to myself 

As you can see, they leave room to adjust to your needs on any given day and they can be redefined as you move through the year. Most importantly, they let you find success in a way that’s meaningful to you. 

So, as we welcome in the new year with hopes that it’s better than the last, think about what your un-smart target will be. Think about where you want to be in one year’s time and how you can adjust your goal to meet your needs. 

And what’s my new year’s resolution for 2022? 

Do more things that bring me joy.