January 1st is not the only time to set new goals for ourselves
There is something monumental about the start of a new year. It’s the start of another 365 (or 366) days and the start of another cycle of the Earth around the sun. Almost everywhere, from the sudden rise in gym attendance to attempts to learn a new language, it seems like there is an infectious attitude of motivation in the air. While that’s commendable and respectable, it brings up a question: why is it that we wait until this day—arbitrarily determined, really, by the system of the Gregorian calendar—to set new goals for ourselves? Doesn’t it seem odd that we wait until a specific day to decide to change our lives, rather than taking initiative whenever it is necessary?
The sentiment behind New Year’s Resolutions is perfectly understandable. With the beginning of an entirely new year, the next 12 months seem like a blank slate, fresh and ready for one to devote to whatever he or she desires. Naturally, this inspires feelings of excitement and ambition, and that’s wonderful. These feelings can be the key to unlocking new spurts of dedication and hard work. However, when you really stop to consider it all, we are in control of our lives at any given moment, not just at the beginning of the year. We have the power to decide what to do with our time and what we would like to devote our energy and attention to achieving. The decision lies entirely in our hands—we can decide at any moment, spontaneously, a new goal for ourselves or a new ambition.
This means that there’s no need to set aside a specific day to change our lives—we are capable of significantly improving ourselves on any arbitrary day. Furthermore, if you’re waiting for the New Year and using that as the only reason to set your goals, it’s possible that you’re likely to be less motivated. The most effective motivation should come from a genuine desire and ambition from within you, not a goal that you’re setting for the sake of having a New Year’s Resolution.
In this way, it is not surprising that many times, goals which are set out of this true desire for improvement end up lasting much longer than New Year’s Resolutions. Personally, I’ve experienced this in my journey towards learning the guitar. A few years ago, I asked for a guitar for Christmas and proceeded to make my New Year’s Resolution the goal of learning how to play it before the year ended. Yet, at the end of the year, I found myself staring at my guitar, which had spent the majority of the year hidden under my bed, and I was unable to play a single song. The motivation for learning had dropped after around the first month, and I simply put the guitar away under my bed, never to touch it again for the rest of the year. What was the problem? I had set my goal for the sake of setting a goal, and I was not motivated enough by a genuine interest in guitar. Flash forward to now, and I play the guitar during my free time whenever I can. Why the huge change? Over the summer, I had developed a new interest in guitar and felt self-motivated to truly dedicate the time to learn it. It wasn’t any particular day, but I set the goal for myself of learning at least one song by the end of the summer, and I spent hours every day learning little by little. By the end of the summer, not only had I learned several different songs, but I had also begun to write my own songs with my guitar. It’s experiences like this that remind me of the power of intrinsic motivation as opposed to extrinsic motivation from social norms such as creating New Year’s Resolutions every January 1st.
Don’t get me wrong: All of this is not to discourage you from making New Year’s Resolutions. However, if you struggle to keep your resolutions, and if you find yourself seemingly hopelessly off track from your goals by the beginning of February, it may be worthwhile to reconsider what goes into your goals. Don’t make goals because you think that it is a necessary part of the New Year. Set goals for yourself that you truly hope to achieve for yourself. In the end, it all depends on you and your true ambitions.
There’s an interesting quote I read a few years ago that I think would be appropriate to end on: “If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.” Take that as you will.
Caption: New Year’s Resolutions are a common sight during the beginning of the year, and while it is true that they can provide temporary bursts of motivation, it generally becomes increasingly more difficult to stick to these resolutions as the year goes on, largely because many people create New Year’s Resolutions out of extrinsic motivation rather than a genuine desire to improve themselves. When we realize that we can take initiative to set new goals whenever it is appropriate, we put more power into our hands and increase the chances of sticking to our goals.