Why New Year’s resolutions are more important than you think

I have been keeping a journal since my dad gave me one for Christmas in 2009. I write down pretty much everything- places I go, people I meet, random thoughts, jokes and even New Year’s resolutions. Growing up, I never took resolutions seriously. Most years I would simply jot down a few hurried thoughts minutes before the clock struck midnight like I’m sure many out there can relate to. Let’s face it, there’s just not enough time in our busy schedules- especially around the holidays- to write thoughtful New Year’s resolutions.

A few years ago when I was desperate for a change, I tried something different. I made time. I began a tradition of finding a quiet place on New Year’s Eve to write my resolutions. I wanted these resolutions to be different, I wanted these resolutions to accurately portray my ambitions for the close of the following year. So, before I even lift a pen I sit and read through everything I have experienced since I was a sophomore in college. I find it helpful to refresh myself on where I have been before deciding where I want to go next.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.”

I noted this quote on five separate occasions over the last six years. Coincidentally, I have been thinking a lot lately about this quote and how it pertains to not only my life but life in general. Recently I have come to conclude that there may not be a destination after all- that maybe the joy of life is found in the continuous journey with no end required. I know personally that much of my joy in life comes from adventure. The people I meet, places I visit and lessons I learn from travel have taught me much more about myself than any textbook ever could. I am a big believer in the necessity of the process. However, as I reviewed prior years resolutions, I couldn’t help but notice the top recurring item was a destination.

  1. Move to California
  2. Go to the gym daily
  3. Write More

This recognition forced me to ponder the relationship between journey and destination. I have reached my destination, I am in California- I live here. But, as I began to write my 2016 resolutions I realized there were many more destinations I wanted to reach. I have been on the journey for so long- 39 months to be exact– I seem to have forgotten the importance of the destination. If life is a journey and not a destination, what purpose does the destination serve? I have reached the destination through a testing journey so what can explain my desire for more? I took a look back at my own journey to find the answers.

Two additional resolutions I emphasized over the years were going to the gym daily and writing every night- two of my stress relievers. In order to live the life I was striving for, I needed to incorporate these activities into my daily routine without sacrificing my drive to reach California. It was a pretty easy start, everything I had done up to that point hadn’t worked so I already accepted change was necessary. Unbeknownst to me, my biggest hindrance was learning to manage time effectively. In other words, how can I balance my goals into a full-time work schedule and typically active weekends. We are always battling time and I’ll be the first to admit, there is never enough of it, but as I learned, there are ways to maximize it.

My moment of clarity occurred when I committed to shifting my priorities. This included making sacrifices in areas I previously never thought possible- sleep and the weekend. As painful as it was to leave the house at 5:30 AM into negative temperatures, I went to the gym before work. A week later I found that I was much more focused and less stressed in the office knowing one goal was already completed. In turn, this allowed for a much more productive work day. Returning home from work, I found I had more energy to write and work on job applications. Another unanticipated result of my early mornings was I went to bed earlier. This eliminated those countless late night hours spent perusing social media. I also cut out many of my weekend antics which granted two more days of the week previously spent viciously hungover and melted into the couch. Once this new lifestyle became habitual and I started seeing results, I couldn’t stop. I had finally learned how to maximize my time.

Months later, when positions weren’t opening, I became proactive for the first time in my life. I arranged informational interviews at 8 schools spanning California. I knew I was ready. I knew it was time. Almost immediately, like a reward for my efforts, I received a call for an interview with my current employer. It just so happened to be during the 3 days I was in LA, during the random week I chose to visit and the rest is history. My journey was not a physical trip to some foreign land where everything finally made sense, but an internal journey. A journey to change my lifestyle, my habits and the status quo.

As I look back on my process and the changes made I realize they were all to reach a clear destination: California. Then, it hit me. Setting a clear destination is imperative to the progress of the journey. If you don’t know where you want to be, how will you know what changes you need to make? Though admittedly frustrating at times, my journey was defined by the goal of getting a job in California. Once I understood this as my purpose, everything else fell into place. Although I may not stay in California my whole life, I not only made it, I gained the knowledge to make it even further.

California

Now that I have reached my destination, how can I explain my desire for more?

The relationship between journey and destination is not mutually exclusive, but progressive. One is not more important than the other, they are both equally essential for personal growth. You don’t reach the destination and stop, rather, the skills learned on your initial journey enable you to reach even further destinations. Through my journey I learned how to manage my time, make sacrifices and most importantly, commit to a long term plan and execute. California is not my end destination but instead a stop along the way to a whole new realm of destinations I never thought possible. In that sense, as I sit on my couch on New Year’s Day, I am content in knowing I am not melted but continuing to live my changes.

At this time last year I was as firmly rooted in Connecticut as I’ve ever been. Today I sit 3,000 miles away from all I know, as free as I ever will be.

Next year, when you are inevitably rushing around on New Year’s Eve, I encourage you to take a few moments out of your day and write thoughtful resolutions. As long as you are headed where you want to be, you will never fail on your journey.

Cheers to 2016 and cheers to the journey, may it never end.

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