I know December is when these “resolution” articles should start rolling out, but personally, I find much more motivation to start working to better myself when a new school year starts than in the middle of winter when I’m already tired and bloated. August/September has the perfect feeling of new beginnings, good endings, and setting intentions. Whether you’re excited to start classes, move to a new place, or even just ready for fall to start, the beginning of the school year always brings a sense of excitement and preparedness that is lacking by December. I think starting each month with a new intention to focus on, something to pay attention to and try to improve is a great way to keep your motivation and readiness up throughout the rest of the school year.
Celebrate your victories.
Whether you take on a hard class that you’re nervous about, strike up a conversation with someone you’ve never seen before, or even turn in your first month of assignments, setting a task and celebrating the completion of that task is so important, especially in college. Professors don’t necessarily notice when you’re putting extra effort in, let alone if your definition of effort looks anything like theirs. There are going to be times when you need to recognize that you’ve done the work that you need to do, or that you went above and beyond, and celebrate that work you’ve put in. Take yourself out to dinner! Let yourself watch a few more episodes of your favorite TV show. Or even just acknowledge to yourself “That was hard, and I did it.”
Forgive your past self.
Hi! Welcome to college! We’ve all made mistakes! Welcome to life!! Literally, no human being is perfect!! Not one!!! This school year, focus on being nice to who you used to be. Whether that’s last month, last year, in high school, or even in middle school. Instead of thinking “That was an embarrassing thing I did” or “That was really mean,” think “Wow, I have really improved my way of thinking” or “I have always been and always will be a work in progress.” Whoever you were back then deserves kindness, because actions are not isolated. Whatever happened cannot be changed, and accepting that past and moving on from it is the only way that anyone can actually improve themselves.
Assume the best in people.
I have a nasty habit of thinking someone who is looking at me is thinking mean thoughts about me in their head. Like, no matter what. If a stranger and I make eye contact, my immediate thought is, “What? Do you think you’re better than me? You think I’m ugly?” and then I’m mad and mean to them in my head. For this intention, instead of knee-jerking with some attitude, assume that person is looking at you because they just love your outfit, or think you look really pretty, or, hell, they just zoned out and you happened to be in their line of sight. Chances are, that’s closer to the truth than that they’re giving you the stink eye. And it’s much nicer to yourself to think that way.
Advocate for yourself.
Everyone has needs. Every student in a class needs something from the professor; every friend, every significant other, every coworker, everyone needs something. But it’s hard to ask for help, especially when we really need it. This semester, instead of waiting for that inevitable mid-term meltdown, send your professor an email at the beginning of the semester explaining anything that might be difficult for you. If you have any mental health struggles, or happen to be dyslexic, or are having a family emergency, or hell, just tend to have a hard time in school in November, let them know! Or, tell your close friends or family or work. Preemptively advocate for your future self – they need help and care, and you can give it to them by simply communicating your needs beforehand. Professors love knowing how they can help their students in a way that doesn’t waste their time or make them feel used. As long as you are honest and transparent, almost every professor will do their best to help you out in any way you can.
The start of a new year is electric. No matter what is happening in life, there’s something about that early autumn air that gets everybody buzzing. So whatever you end up doing this year, try to take some time for yourself to decide what it is you really want to focus on. Where do you want to set your intentions, and what are the best ways for you to take steps to improve yourself, your life, and the world around you? Give yourself something to focus on, so that if you get off track, there can be something for you to pull yourself back with. Setting an intention can take you a lot farther than you think, if you believe, and truly take steps toward achieving it.