The new year has arrived. While many people in New York City hit the bars, dined out in swanky restaurants, partied at friends’ apartments, or chilled out in Times Square to watch the ball drop, I stayed at home and started thinking about what I wanted to accomplish for the new batch of twelve months ahead.
I usually try to come up with at least one or two resolutions for the new year, and they usually have to do with losing weight and eating more healthy. I’m comfortable with my body the way it is now, and even though I have made several mental notes to myself to join a (more affordable) gym again to maintain my weight and practice yoga more often to relieve the tension in my muscles, these physical activities are not exactly top priorities for me anymore. I mean, 2014 was a major year for me. In the span of those twelve months (in no particular order), I’ve done the following:
- joined a gym
- lost weight (10 lbs., in case you were wondering)
- became a bridesmaid for the first time at my cousin’s wedding (the main reason for my health kick in the first place)
- explored some exclusive beaches in the Philippines
- discovered the initial pangs of what it was like to have a Brazilian wax
- became a Sephora VIB Rouge member (pretty much a symbol of my financial independence as a young woman who enjoys skincare products and playing around with cosmetics)
- bought my own laptop, my beloved 13″ Macbook Air for all of my writing and creative projects
- transitioned into a new dynamic for my day job where I’ve had to relocate offices and meet new people
- tried new food and new restaurants, like Ethiopian cuisine, fancy French bistros, and macarons (chocolate, hazelnut, and maple bacon… mmmm)
- figured out which area of study I want to focus on in graduate school and the kind of creative path I want to pursue for the rest of my life
- changed my outlook on spirituality and religion by joining a church community that I actually feel connected with when I attend
- went kayaking for the first time along the Hudson River
- bought my own self-hosted domain and designed my very own website
- had my heart broken and pieced it back together
- started a new relationship with a special person in my life whose smile and voice makes my heart flutter with joy.
I will admit that I did not anticipate that about half of these things would even happen when 2014 had started. Some were intentional, most were incidental. Some opportunities just happened to present themselves in the course of pursuing other things, so I decided to take a chance on them.
This year will not be like any other year. I realize that by February 8th, I will have already lived about a quarter of my life. So I have to make it count. It’s not every year you turn twenty-five. So I made a list – it’s a short list, but a list nonetheless – of things I hope to turn into habits, just as a simple guideline to create building blocks for long-term goals in the future. I asked myself, “What are some things in my life that I want to change? How can I go about changing them? When do I start? More importantly, how do I start?”
Simple: you have to learn how to turn your hopes into habits.
1. Sharpen Your Sense of Time Management
I’ll be honest: I’m not the best at managing my time effectively to maximize my day. I get anxious when I arrive early to events, and I dislike being the first one to show up when no one else has arrived yet. At the same time, I get peeved when my train does not roll into the station in time for me to clock in at work on time. I have a personal planner with a pretty floral design as its cover, but I don’t write in it every day; I only refer to it occasionally to fill its pages and list down things in the calendar dates to make me feel like I’m busy. On the other hand, if I want to take more charge of my time and the way I use it, I need to make a few changes and adopt these changes as habits of my own.
Effective time management requires that you take a few minutes each week to sit down and make a list of your priorities for the week: the things you must absolutely get done first, and then those other things you can get around to doing once you’ve freed yourself up more for miscellaneous activities. With priority tasks in mind, you should also allow yourself to have some room for change, granting yourself the flexibility to switch between tasks so you can work at your own pace. So even when things don’t work out, you also have an arsenal of back-up plans of other things you might want to focus on and finish.
Whether you use a real physical planner (you know, the kind made from actual paper that you can turn the page with and doodle on with a pen), or use a planner/calendar app on your laptop, tablet, or phone, it’s a good idea to keep track of everything that’s going on in your life so that you can set aside more time for the important things: hanging out with your sisters to watch a favorite show, have dinner with your loved ones, sketch outlines for that New York Times bestseller that you’ve been working on for the past year.
(Note to self: I should get cracking on that editorial calendar for this website. Now where’s my planner?)
2. Chase After Chances to Challenge Yourself
There are two views to consider when it comes to the concept of failure. You fail as a result of either of the following:
- You did not make any attempts towards your goal.
- You may have tried – or made several attempts – to attain your goal, but alas, you were not able to reach it.
Failure sucks. It’s a fact of life. We’ve all failed at something at least once in our lives. On the other hand, we possess control over how we experience failure. I know that statement sounds bizarre, like “What the hell is she talking about?” type of bizarre. Failure bites. Failure is the fissure in your existential crisis. Failure came as a result of the complete lack of control over the circumstances, you might argue.
While that may be true, let’s re-assess it through the wise words of a beloved author:
“It is impossible to live without failing at something unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all—in which case, you fail by default.”
Things will rarely present themselves in front of you, let alone fall from the sky and land on your lap. Life may be full of serendipitous moments, but serendipity is not a guarantee. There is power in choosing to chase after the things you want. Once you embrace this power as a driving force in your life, you work harder, get smarter, fight harder, and yes, even laugh more (but we’ll get to that in a minute).
You’re going to face several doors – doors that won’t budge no matter how hard you push against it, doors that get locked even though you’ve brought more than enough copies of the key, doors that get slammed in your face, doors that are hard to close behind you and throw away the key, and doors that might hit you on your way towards the next right turn in your life.
But enough about doors. Maybe it’s time you build your own. Challenge yourself. Create your own chances.
3. Laugh more.
No, seriously. You need to lighten up. All this talk of doors can make you feel lost and confined to a particular space. You need to let more light in, and you need to take a step outside. Breathe in the fresh air – even if you live in a city like mine, where the air is mixed with traffic and all sorts of mystery, try taking a walk through your neighborhood or meander your way through a park. Hop on a bike, go jogging, do some yoga, whatever.
Love more and live often. Let things happen to you once in a while and let yourself experience it happening to you. Learn something about how it made you feel, made you think, made you want to do something differently in your life.
Be smart about the choices you choose to make, but also be open to the possibility of being silly. There is joy in learning from our silliness. Maybe silliness is the stepping stone we need to grow wiser and be happier in life as we look back on all of our choices.
I recently finished reading Amy Poehler’s memoir, “Yes Please,” and one of the quotes that stood out to me the most was this one:
And you know what? That’s what I want, too. I don’t have a set list of resolutions that I want to accomplish by the end of this new year. I want the flexibility to choose, since I’ve come to realize that my own goals and desires can change within the span of those twelve months depending on how I feel and other extraneous factors that may or may not affect the way I perceive my life. I want to change, and I want to grow. I want to live and love and write as honestly and openly as often as I can.
I hope you have hopes, too. I hope you aspire towards them and create more chances for yourself because… Well, hell. You deserve it.
So have a happy New Year, everyone. May we all have the time of our lives in 2015 and turn all of our hopes into habits, and hopefully become masters of these three things.