When the New Year comes around, we’ve been conditioned to believe that we have to make New Year’s resolutions. Before the ball drops, we rush to think of whatever parts of our lives currently dissatisfy us, and we reinvent that discontent into a more desirable habit or lifestyle. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the idea of recognizing the new year as a reset button. For our own sanities, I believe it’s necessary to have this sort of social construct because entering a new year enables us to feel liberated from the previous year’s burdens. The idea of clearing our headspace to make way for the new year takes a lot of stress away from us, and everyone could use a mental cleanse.
However, I don’t agree with the notion that we have to wait until the new year to begin standardizing what we deem as our ideal lifestyles, habits, etc. I’m not saying to completely throw away whatever New Year’s resolutions have been made. What I want to promote is the understanding that the power to change and shape our habits and our lifestyles rests within ourselves and not the turn of a new year.
If there’s a part of our lives that feels empty or unfulfilling, why let it steamroll us throughout the year when we can start right now and work day by day to reinforce a better habit. I can’t remember where I saw this quote, but when I first came upon it, it gave me a lot more perspective on how to gradually shape my lifestyle so that I’m living the life that I strive for myself—the kind of life that helps me grow as a person.
Here is the quote: “Watch your thoughts, they become your words. Watch your words, they become your actions. Watch your actions, they become your habits. Watch your habits, they become your character. Watch your character, it becomes your destiny” (Frank Outlaw).
It all starts with setting up ourselves with the necessary mindset so that we can foster personal growth in whatever direction we wish. It’s always easier said than done, but I want to end this article with a real-life example from personal experience.
I was very overwhelmed coming out of the second semester of my freshman year. I didn’t realize that over the course of the academic year, I had never allowed myself to fully process emotions as I felt them. As a result, having such excess time once the semester finished left me alone with my thoughts, and I had a lot. I was an anxious mess. I had so many emotions to grapple with but nowhere for them to go. I didn’t want to face my emotions, so I would distract myself by sitting at the edge of my couch every day for a month binge-watching as many shows as I can. One show that particularly grabbed my attention was Songland. This show highlights a select few novice songwriters who have the opportunity to work with industry songwriters (Ryan Tedder, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally) and pitch their songs to a guest artist. Watching parts of the songwriting process absolutely fascinated me, and I noticed that many of the songwriters would use songwriting to express their feelings. I thought to myself that maybe I could write a song as a way to cope with what felt like an overflowing faucet of stress, anxiety, and self-doubt.
So what happened? I thought to myself on a random day in May that I would write a song. I wrote the first words to a song on May 4th. I made songs here and there as the summer progressed, so I began to build momentum. I would work on writing songs almost everyday for the second half of summer. Eight months later, I now write songs as my way of facing and processing intense emotions, and it’s helped me grow mentally, creatively, and surprisingly, academically in my papers.
Writing songs essentially became a part of who I am. Who knows if songwriting is my destiny. What I do know now, more than ever, is that change begins with us. We don’t have to wait for the “obligatory” turn of the new year to chase after what we want for ourselves. If we want to better ourselves, all it takes is one thought to spark a change in our words, actions, habits, character, and even destiny. And I promise you, it’s always worth the hassle to change for the better.