You Don't Need a New Year for New Goals

Every year, there is one day that I simultaneously dread and anticipate. New Year’s Eve is always the accumulation of the year before, the highlight reels and reflection on what was good and what was not. However, after a party and a drink or two comes the morning of a New Year.

I have the biggest love/hate relationship with New Year’s Day.

On the one hand, I appreciate the lightness I feel as I enter a new year, leaving the weight of the past year back on December 31. On the other, a new year comes with new expectations both for the self and for life. Though new expectations and goals can be a great way to start the new year eagerly, it seems ridiculous to me to select the end of the year for goal setting.

During the first few days of January, there is the looming question: “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” Each year I would come up with an extravagant list of the various means and ways in which I could conclusively be a better person twelve months from then. I would write things like “work out every day” or “read 50 books,” but I realized, no matter how determined I was to complete those goals, I was destined to lose motivation at one point or another and subsequently, be crushed when I “failed” at my resolutions.

What kind of way is that to live? It seems harsh to set expectations for ourselves, knowing at one point or another we would inevitably fail to a degree. Not only did these resolutions speak to our plans of the future, but they were tied to our value and happiness. Too often, we think to ourselves, “If I just do this, I will be happy,” which is, of course, untrue. Happiness is not measured by things but the way in which one leads their life.

So, I stopped setting New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I began setting goals whenever I felt like it. I am constantly changing and having to come up with a new plan.

If I do poorly on a test, I realize I have to change my study habits, so in that moment, on a random Tuesday, I have now set a new standard for myself. You do not need it to be a brand new year with fresh beginnings to change your life. You can choose every single day, during every single minute to change what you want about your life. The goals you set a few months ago do not have to compare to the personal goals you have set today.

I turned 19 recently, and the first thing I wanted to do was set a list of things to complete by the time I turn 20. While there is satisfaction in checking off obscure and specific things from a to-do list, for once in my life I do not want my success to be measured by a list. So, this is my only goal for the next 12 months: live each day.

There are no set guidelines for the grades I desire or the activities I wish to partake in by the time I enter my twenties. But rather, I want to accomplish the goal of not setting a list. I want to accomplish the feeling of recognizing that life is strange and wonderful if we only stop thinking ahead.

We are constantly measuring ourselves against time, and too easily do we forget how little of it we possess. When pondering on the purpose of life Walt Whitman wrote, “That you are here - that life exists and identity, that the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” In the shortness of life, I refuse to be resigned to a list of accomplishments and an annual list of goals. My life will be made meaningful by how I choose to spend my time. I am setting new goals every day to be the best version of myself, and that is good enough for me.

Pick a new goal today. Do not be limited to new goals once a year. Life is far too short to not live each day like it is a new beginning.