Every year about this time, people start making lists of New Year's Resolutions. By the second week of January, however, most resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Why? I think it's because most folks try to do too much too soon. For example, if it's your goal to lose 20 lbs this year, start off small. Make one change at a time. Tell yourself, "I will not eat cookies (or drink soda, or snack when bored, etc.) or other things that cause weight gain." Set a goal, do not make a resolution. Set a goal that this week, you will not eat cookies. When you achieve your goal, celebrate, but not with food. Buy a book you've been wanting to read, or go see a movie with a friend, or do something else constructive. Never reward yourself with food. If you happen to mess up and eat cookies, don't fret. Just reset your goal and work hard to achieve it. Small victories are still victories - celebrate them.
The same principle works with being a nontrad and achieving goals. Set small, realistic goals, then celebrate them. If you're a procrastinator, set the goal that you're going to register for classes on time so you don't have to pay the late registration fee. Then, take the money you would have paid for the late registration fee and apply it toward a household expense or buy yourself a cool pen to take notes with on that first day of class! If you're habitually late for class, set a goal to be there before the prof (on time). Keep track of your punctuality. Tell a good friend you've been on time to class all week. Good friends are great cheerleaders.
It has been my experience that when I set a small, realistic goal and work hard to achieve it and do achieve it, I am more apt to set more difficult goals and work even harder to achieve them. For example, I was determined to pass Computer Science 102 last spring semester (spring 2008), especially when my lab T.A. told me I shouldn't be in the class. I passed with a B, thanks to tutoring and hard work. Achieving that goal showed me that I am capable of passing a difficult class. It also showed Richard, my T.A., that he was wrong!
In this New Year, don't make resolutions, for they are easily broken. Instead, set small, realistic goals and celebrate when you achieve them. What are my goals for this year? I want to see if I can have another 4.0 semester. I want to be able to go to school full time and work part time. I want to get a good score on the GRE so I don't have to retake it. I want to get to know the profs in the History Department better. I want to love my family better.
Good luck with your goals. Set them, achieve them, and then celebrate them!