Harness Your New Year’s Goals with the Power of Natural Transitions

Sarah Yoon Writing Tips

New Year’s Eve is my most highly anticipated holiday. But it’s not because of food, funny hats, or a countdown to midnight. Most years I’m snuggled in bed by 10:00 p.m. because I’m not infatuated with the party. I’m in love with the yearly opportunity for powerful transitions.

Note that I don’t say “resolutions”; that term is clouded with messy connotations. Resolutions may come with plenty of resolve, but they have too much pressure and too little life support. If you’re intentional about change, you can use calendar transitions throughout the year to create fresh starts, set goals, and feel successful.

Transition into the New Year

January 1 is an arbitrary transition point if you think about it. The first day of the year can’t promise any change in circumstances. It can’t promise success in your endeavors. But it can give you an opportunity to reevaluate.

I love using January 1 as an excuse to pull a fresh start out of thin air. I clear my mental space by pulling a Marie Kondo on my workspace. I haul all my art projects, messy notes, binders, and planners into the middle of the room and sort through them all. I recycle the papers I’ve clung to for no reason, and I file the notes I still feel attached to. As I sweep my office’s dust bunnies away, I get to sweep my mental dust bunnies away too. 

Treat the new year like a transition. Take the time to process your highs and lows and then let them go so that your restart will feel fresh. #writingtips Click To Tweet

A fresh start is best treated as a transition. Pause before you jump into new goals and process the baggage of the previous year. Find the good, celebrate it, and mourn the bad. Say goodbye to both so you don’t have anything to prove. Those experiences are a part of you, and they will inform how you pursue future goals, but don’t pressure yourself to one-up your successes or redeem your failures. Let them go, one by one, until the restart really feels fresh and you feel free to look forward.

The Daydream Stage

I ease myself into setting goals by dreaming about the year to come. And I hope you let yourself open up about what you want too. It’s far too easy to shoot our dreams down before we have a chance to try them. Or we allow past discouragements to smother them. So keep it hazy for now. What can you aim for? What do you really want? Let go of pesky, practical “shoulds” and wonder about where your career could go, how emotionally or physically healthy you could be, or how you could write the book that’s been in your heart for so long.

That’s a lot to work through, right? It can take a while to muddle out what we really want. If you begin processing all of this before New Year’s Day, all the better. I look forward to this pivotal transition months before the holiday rolls around so I’m ready to start January with a clear sense of direction. If you’re feeling short on time, though, don’t stress about it. That lazy first morning of the year may be perfect for snuggling up in a blanket and journaling it out, and January 1 is only the beginning, after all.

A Twelve-Month Trajectory

When you’ve unpacked your dreams from wherever they’d been buried, it’s time to consider what practical steps you can take toward them. You want to set goals, but just like resolutions, they come with baggage. The biggest problem I’ve had with goals is inflexibility. A family member rushes to the hospital, a kitchen appliance needs immediate replacement, my mental health takes a downward turn, and I blame myself for being unable to meet my own expectations. I fall further and further behind, and I see only two options ahead: either I give up on the project entirely or I push myself until I burn out. 

Make the new year a year of infinite second chances! Whether your you set daily, weekly, or monthly goals, give yourself grace as a writer. #writingtips Click To Tweet

Thankfully, those aren’t the only two options. The third option is to use transitions to help me refocus on my goal’s trajectory. We have the gift of twelve months ahead. That span is both very long and very short, as the odd magic of time will have it. You won’t achieve everything in one year; treat your dreams as a trajectory. It is amazing what you can do if you’re intentional about following that trajectory, using the beginning of every month to recreate January 1’s fresh start. 

Just look at the month ahead of you and no further. Decide what is important right now. Choose the smallest step forward that you can think of. When you limit the number of monthly goals—I like keeping it down to two or three—you won’t feel as scattered or as pressured. 

Weekly Goals

Monthly goals are a good start, but even one month is too broad and too volatile for a Sharpie. Some weeks you’ll accomplish a lot, and some weeks you’ll need to rest a lot. So let each week stand on its own. The more flexible you keep yourself, the more easily you can bounce back from a bad week without feeling like you’re behind. 

If you have the overachiever’s habit of setting too many goals—I’m not going to lie, my two or three goals can be far too many if each has multiple steps—you’ll find that they compete for your time. When you make progress on your writing, you feel guilty about ignoring your exercise routine. It’s a vicious cycle that is only aggravated by the promise of a perfect work-life balance. But the truth is that you can’t accomplish everything. Sometimes you need to ignore one goal for a while so you can focus all your creativity on the other. You can build healthy habits slowly; don’t let the ebb and flow faze you. The imbalance won’t last forever. 

Mondays, Man

If you want each week to stand on its own, you need to find a healthy transition point. This is exactly why Mondays are yet another beautiful opportunity. Mondays are pigeonholed as downers, the start to yet another work week, but can we even afford to hate an entire day? We only have seven days in the week already, so I’d encourage you to learn to love them for what they are. Monday is a fresh start.

Night owls, try spending fifteen minutes on Sunday night. Morning people, get Monday started a little early. Start the week with a mentality reset. Check in on your health. Refocus your trajectory. Double-check that your goals aren’t cumbersome. Some goals will turn out to be duds—maybe they are a burden, they have become a source of guilt, or they’re off track from what you really want—and this transition frees you to change them. Let your goals be a source of joy that lightens your workweek. 

Infinite Second Chances

This year, big dreams don’t have to feel abstract, overwhelming, or unachievable. You don’t need to shrink your dreams down, and you definitely don’t need to push yourself so hard that you’ll burn out. Start New Year’s Day with a new mindset, where every calendar transition becomes a powerful opportunity. 

No goal is impossible when you smash it into months, chip it into weeks, and sweep up the days. Every little sliver of progress represents your hard-earned success. Every transition lets you say goodbye to pressure and hello to another chance to start again. 


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About the Author

Sarah L. Yoon lives in a whirlwind. While her husband, son, and Airedale terrier dig holes in the backyard, she forms creative communities, writes interior design articles for Engaged Media, and pushes her stories to the next level. Her work has appeared in Fathom Magazine and Every Day Fiction. She received honorable mention from Glimmer Train Press’s Very Short Fiction March/April 2018. Find Sarah on Twitter @sarahlyoon and Instagram @slywriter.