I have never truly believed in the merit of New Year’s resolutions. Why is Jan. 1, 2020 the ideal date to change our life choices? The new year has become a symbolic marker of new beginnings, but is a date devoid of any actual meaning. The most popular resolutions revolve around losing weight, getting rid of bad habits or the vague intention of thinking more positively. Others set more specific goals, like to read more books or to get a better job, goals which often are pursued at the start of the year but end up forgotten and are never accomplished.
Many New Year’s resolutions go unfulfilled because they provide delayed rather than instant gratification. If we can’t see the short-term rewards of our goals, we grow apathetic. This is why New Year’s resolutions tend to be a pathway to superficiality, resolving the need to look rather than actually feel better.
The new year has never felt like a new start for me. I have never once told myself: “Wow, remember 2017? That was a particularly good year.” The new year is a good time to reflect on the accomplishments, growth and memories of the past year. I could easily remember 2019 as the year that I had my first car accident, my first annoying boss or my first time feeling generally confused about my future. Rather, I choose to think of 2019 as a year of accomplishing a lot academically, building my resume and gaining a newfound sense of confidence.
When I think back on it, I have changed a lot over the course of 2019. While I went into college with a certain sense of independence, I was still very naive. I pursued opportunities that made me happy instead of ones that I thought would look good on a resume, but I tended to question whether I was doing enough to prove my self-worth. The confident attitude I gained towards the beginning of 2019 was not crafted by a “New Year’s resolution” but an attitude I naturally developed in order to get what I wanted out of life.
While I, like the rest of the population, have personality traits I could “work” on in the new year, I don’t think bad habits can be forced out just because people tell us they should or because we grow to hate that part of ourselves. The new year should instead be looked at as an opportunity for self evaluation. Are the people in our lives and the academic endeavors we’re pursuing making us happy and excited for the future? If the answer is no, I think it is on us to make a change in the new year.
I don’t think bad habits can be forced out just because people tell us they should or because we grow to hate that part of ourselves.
Personally, I ended this quarter feeling a little drained, like I was stuck in an endless routine. So for 2020, I plan to try new things that are not geared towards success but towards general enjoyment. We should value our time in 2020 and maximize it towards its fullest potential. We should spend time making our own lives feel balanced, prioritizing our needs as well as the needs of others.
The new year can also be looked at as an opportunity to be civically engaged by taking on work that affects the community in a positive way. Giving back strays from the typical New Year’s resolution that is geared directly towards personal growth, but it can still be an influencing factor in our futures. Getting involved in my student newspaper, helping educate elementary students about tree species and registering students to vote are all things I have been involved in this past year and have allowed me to contribute to my community as well as my sense of individuality.
Lastly, the new year often involves meeting new people, having new experiences and forming new social circles. While this seems exciting, one thing I have learned in 2019 is to not leave your old friends behind. We can often get swept up in new romances, friends and groups that make us forget we need to make an active effort to reconnect with people who have been there when we’ve needed them in the past. I’ve reconnected with people I hadn’t talked to in a long time over winter break and am subsequently happier because of it. So reach out to your childhood best friend, old neighbor or extended family. Ultimately, it could affect both your life and theirs for the better.
Contrary to popular belief, the new year does not necessarily need to be a period of change for everyone. Instead of thinking of the new year as a chance to kick a habit you’ll probably end up keeping, reexamine your daily routine and carve out more time for your own personal enjoyment and stability.
Joshen Mantai thinks the new year is a good time for celebration, reflection and natural change rather than arbitrary resolutions.