CITYWIDE — Today marks the beginning of not only a new calendar year, but also a new decade. For 19-year-old Santa Monica College student Kirin Sundher, 2010 promises to bring radical changes.

In 2008, Sundher graduated valedictorian of her high school and was accepted on a half-ride scholarship to study biology at New York University. Despite the scholarship, financial difficulties brought her back to California, where she spent a year taking classes at SMC.

This year, Sundher’s resolutions will mark another shift in her educational campaign.

“I will be picking up my life again and joining the Air Force,” she said, a decision which she hopes will bring her one step closer to achieving her ultimate goal: becoming a trauma surgeon. “While I often set goals to achieve throughout the year, the new year has always represented a time to start over fresh, which is definitely something I embrace.”

Others, like Blake Mycoskie, have goals that are much simpler, but no less sincere. “I want to see more sunsets,” he said. “That’s it.”

Than there are those who focus on their finances, something which takes on added important given the struggling economy.

“I would like to keep my job and travel more in the coming year,” said Jay Wadsworth.

“My resolution is to make more money,” said Nicolai Haddal, who has never made a resolution before this year. Aside from helping out his family financially, Haddal also plans on donating to domestic charities.

“As a first generation American, this is very important to me,” he said.

While many people make resolutions of varying degrees, from extreme to simplistic, there are those who refuse to make them on Jan. 1.

“I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions,” says Andrew Raggatt. “I prefer to set my own benchmarks throughout the year and meet them as I go along.”

Still, for those who choose to set goals for themselves, whether it be losing weight or expressing one’s feelings more, there is the inevitable struggle to stay on track and see resolutions through until the end. Various polls have shown that while 8 percent of people always succeed in achieving their resolutions, 49 percent have infrequent success, and 24 percent never succeed and have failed to keep every resolution every year.

“Most New Year’s resolutions are difficult to keep because nothing has been done to change ourselves except a fairly weak promise based on self-judgment,” says Maia Berens, a life coach based in Santa Monica. She insists that New Year’s resolutions are “more like wishful thinking,” but we make them “because we are fed up with some aspect of ourselves and wish ourselves to be different.”

While Jan. 1 seems to be an arbitrary, yet convenient date for changing ourselves, its power comes from its ability to make us feel like we are wiping the proverbial slate clean. “We’ve probably all read that gym membership and diet club attendance peaks right after the holidays,” Berens said.

As Mark Fearon, a bouncer at The Gaslite bar on Wilshire Boulevard, observed: “Resolutions are difficult for people to keep because they are afraid of failing; for them, it is better to never try than to try and not succeed.”

The fear of failure is a common theme — it is the perpetrator that often destroys resolutions before any real effort has been made to keep them.

As someone who helps people assess and improve themselves for a living, Berens knows a few tips for making resolutions work. “One more failure is not good for your self-esteem,” Berens said. “It will most likely mean that next year when the calendar is ready to turn to 2011, you will be making the same resolution again.”

She suggests that people think about a change they intend to make and decide if they can honestly picture themselves living the way the resolution would require, for example, as a non-smoker or as a person committed to exercise. “If you can’t really believe it, it is likely that you aren’t quite ready,” she said.

Try taking smaller, incremental steps towards a goal, instead of setting a lofty, unrealistic one, she said. Appropriately, “resolution” comes from the Latin word “resolutionem,” meaning the “process of reducing things into simpler forms.” In order to begin this process of change, Berens highlights three steps: healing the past, changing beliefs about ourselves, and finding a like-minded person to support that change. Once these steps have been realized, a commitment can be made to transform a shaky path of hesitation into a well-defined road of confidence.

Some, like Fearon, make promises to themselves “to be a better person.” Others hope a new diet will ensure better health in the future, or that going back to school will increase job prospects or self-fulfillment. Regardless of the goal, the end of December often brings self-reflection and daydreams of “a new me,” manifested in the goals we scribble down and pin hopefully to the fridge.

“What more perfect time to do that but when the page on the calendar shows a new year?” Berens said.

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