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Another year, another attempt at change

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Regardless of which semester is beginning, I tend to find myself starting off each new class with thoughts like “I’m going to try a little harder on my final papers,” or “I’m even going to do my readings,” and a hope that maybe I’ll finally use that student planner/agenda thing I purchased a few months ago. But as we all know, when midterms roll around the eagerness fades, the student planner/agenda thing is buried under the several course packs that we were supposed to absorb, and that sacred extra time in the evenings is used to catch up on Narcos instead of cooking a decent dinner.

At this time of year I find myself wondering what makes us need a beginning, like the new year, to kick ourselves in the ass and improve our habits. I wonder why we struggle so deeply with simply waking up in the morning and beginning a change in our eating habits, adjusting our daily screen time, or making the effort to see friends more often. If we see a problem in our lives, why do we need to wait for the beginning of a beginning to work on fixing this problem?

As I think more about this I realize that along with all of the chatter about New Year’s resolutions there seems to be an equal amount of discussion around failing those resolutions. It appears to almost be a fact that a New Year’s resolution will not hold up until Dec. 31. Are you really not going to have any sugar for a whole year?

Maybe those who vow to adjust their life in some dramatic and positive way feel that — even though they may have the best intentions of seeing these adjustments through until the end of the year — it’s more the effort that counts.

We seem to aim too high then fail too hard. If we’ve never been a gym rat but commit to going to the gym four times a week for the year of 2019, are we really setting ourselves up for success? Why wouldn’t we start with going to the gym once a week for the first two months and slowly add more visits?

Some may disagree and think that going in full force or quitting cold-turkey is the way to make permanent adjustments in one’s life. But as I look at those vowing to live in their brand new lulus while buying organic kale for the first time, I pity them for the failure they will (likely) experience after they devour a bag of Ruffles All Dressed chips and hate themselves more than ever.

Often this failure makes us want to dive deeper into that failure: hell, go to McDonald’s for lunch, watch another episode, stay out for a while longer. But if we make small adjustments to better ourselves right here, right now, instead of waiting for a new year or a new semester, wouldn’t we have more grace on ourselves if we slip up? Because it would just be one day in the middle of February where we didn’t have three servings of veggies rather than Jan. 2 and we’re already skipping on our high goal of eating eight servings of veggies each day.

Like they say, “Slow and steady wins the race.” Start now, take it slow, and have grace if you slip up.

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