How to Come Out Ahead in 2014

This semester—and year—has just about wrapped up, which means that the new one starts in only a couple of weeks. Do you have what it takes to hit the ground running?

1. Through Out the New Years Resolutions: Making resolutions to study better, harder, smarter, more efficiently—they just plain don't work, with 75% of resolvers keeping theirs for only one week, and a mere 19% for two years. Change doesn't happen on a preordained schedule, it takes place when it needs to. Make change need to happen in your life by starting now and starting small.

2. Give Yourself Permission to Fail: Nobody is 100% successful at anything they apply themselves to, ever. Stop thinking you'll buck the odds by being that one special case, and you'll probably start succeeding more than you have. While giving yourself permission to fail doesn't give you a free pass to fail, it does mean that it's okay if you screw up here and there because life.

3. Set the Bar Higher Just because you've set the bar higher doesn't mean you get to plateau at the level you're currently at. Stop for a second and consider two versions of yourself, the 5-year-old kindergarten self whose greatest accomplishment was being able to lace up shoes, and your current self who's in college and on their way to a degree or diploma. Would your kindergarten self be able to do a tenth of what you're doing now? No, and that's because you kept setting the bar higher.

4. Step Out of Your Comfort Zone: Along with point #3 is taking risks to reap rewards. You don't have to suddenly morph into Evel Knievel and drive a motorcycle down a ramp and over 50 cars parked side by side to prove you're willing—and able—to take risks, but do try something that's unusual and uncomfortable regularly. By trial and error, it's just a matter of time before you hit on something you're good at or enjoy.

5. Set Your Priorities: Unless you're part of the 1% of students who are so brilliant, they pull off top grades without ever studying, you're going to have to make it a priority. This means saying "no" to things that are naturally more fun, like watching a movie, hanging out with your friends, sleeping in, or going on a trip. With the exception of suddenly landing in a hospital, there's probably going to be time to do everything you like at least once. University isn't the time for it, so hold off for just a little bit.