The start of every new year brings discussions about New Year’s resolutions. For some, this is an exciting time when we “resolve” to continue good habits, change undesired behavior for the better, accomplish personal goals and generally improve our lives. For others, the new year is a time of great stress because we fear that we will not be able to make the required changes. As we approach the end of the first month of the new year, I have been doing a lot of thinking about how to fulfill my personal resolutions (not necessarily represented below).
New Year’s Resolutions are a great way to focus on lifestyle changes that will enhance our quality of life and the lives of others. It is important to remember, however, that we cannot expect these changes to occur overnight; change is a step-by-step process that requires determination and hard work. When reality hits and we realize that our resolutions are difficult and cannot be simply achieved, we often scrap them and give up on the changes that were so important to us only days before. How can we expect to be a different person on Jan. 2 than we were on Dec. 31? This is a lot of pressure to put on ourselves.
The problem is that the typical New Year’s resolution is often very broad and idealistic. Can we realistically expect to go from drinking five sodas every day to only one? We all want to do better in school, but is it reasonable to go from being a “C” student to an “A” student overnight? Of course not. A plan that lays out small steps is necessary to be successful in achieving our goals. This plan is the road map that guides us from the “before” self to the “after”self. The plan is the bridge that gets you from who you are today to who you want to be tomorrow. The first day of the plan does not bring a new you, but it is the first day to becoming a better you. The plan, when followed, will help you to slowly fulfill your resolutions and goals.
While all of this is great in concept, we are bound to miss a step or slip up along the way. Rather than persevering and getting back on track, we often decide to quit because our plan has not been perfectly executed. My parents always tell me that “perfect is the enemy of good.” It took me a long time to understand what they meant but I think that I am beginning to get it. Life often gets in the way of our plans and it is important to be flexible when trying to accomplish our goals. If you don’t have time to get to the gym and exercise today, walk the stairs instead of taking the elevator and figure out how to get to the gym tomorrow. Don’t scrap your long-term goals because of a short-term misstep. Every step you take toward your goals is positive, even if it is not perfect.
Although it is called a New Year’s resolution, the start of 2020 brings with it a new decade and new opportunities. Where will I be in 2030? In ten years, I know that my life will be dramatically different from today. I will be 25 years old, an adult by any standard. I may be in graduate school or enjoying the beginning of my career. I may even be thinking about saving for my eventual retirement. Long-term plans and resolutions are a great way to make sure that everything we do is a step closer to becoming who you want to be and achieving what you want to accomplish in your lifetime. Ask yourself, “Where do I want to be in ten years? What type of person do I want to become?” and then design a plan to reach your goals.
Your plans, however, should not be set in stone. Evaluating, revising and resetting your plan regularly helps to make sure that you are on the right track. Your goals may change dramatically from year to year or even month to month. You should feel free to alter your plan whenever you want to change the direction that you are headed. You do not have to be exactly sure who you want to be in the future, either. All that is needed are goals that you want to achieve. Break the big goals down into smaller milestones that can be achieved and celebrated along the way.
New Year’s resolutions, as well as new decade’s resolutions, are a great way to plan for our future and decide where and who we want to become. We cannot expect to wake up as a different person in the morning just because we decide that is who we want to be. We must take small, realistic, steps toward achieving those goals. Treat your plans as your compass that will successfully guide you through life. With every turn, the compass will change but it will always lead you toward achieving your best you.
Zack Siegel is a student at Schreiber High School