There is something magical about a New Year. Not only do you get to say goodbye to the old, but you get a metaphorical clean slate. While it’s not always easy to let go of all of the mistakes you’ve made and start anew, January 1st is the day that begins a new chapter in your life. If you didn’t like the previous year, now is your time to make some changes and do things differently. This is why people come up with a list of resolutions. They say things like “this year I’m going to be a better person” or “this year I’m going to start being more active.”

While these are both great aspirations, it’s not necessarily a good idea to decide to make lifestyle changes because you closed one 365 page book and are now starting a new one. It takes a lot to change. Saying you’re going to do something now means nothing if you couldn’t do it a week ago or even a month ago. I have a lot of friends who post their resolutions on social media every year and people like them and comment how they want to make the same changes, but I can’t help but notice that their resolutions are the same as ones from last year.

Again, there is nothing wrong with change. Change is healthy. Especially when you genuinely want to better your life by working on your health, choose more carefully who you let into your life, or even by coming to the realization that some of the choices you make aren’t the best and you want to do something about that. Whatever the case may be, change is something that we as young people will experience throughout our lives, particularly during the early stages. We don’t have control over all of the changes that happen, but we do have control over some.

So take control over your life.

If you think that you already have control and you’re one of those people who lives by the whole ‘New Year, New Me’ mantra, then I’m afraid that you aren’t in control. I say this because, if you were in control, you wouldn’t need a New Year to want to become a ‘new you’. You would change when you want to change without resolutions or the allure of the New Year being a clean slate.

I won’t deny that there are people who genuinely decide to change in the New Year because those people do exist and their resolutions are more than statements to them; they are actions. If you want to change, then that’s wonderful. But don’t do it because it’s a New Year. That’s like wearing pink because it’s Wednesday. Maybe that’s not the best comparison but the point is that don’t say you’re going to change your life because of the time. Say you’re going to change because you honestly want to do it; after you come to the realization that you want to make changes, turn those wants into actions!

Many people say they want to lose weight or travel more or do this and do that on January 1st, but then 365 days go by and they haven’t lost anything, they haven’t travelled anywhere, and they haven’t done all of the things they said they were going to do a year ago. This is not to put anyone down – we all encounter obstacles that keep us from doing the things we set out to do, and that’s okay. It’s life. But, with that said, it’s important to strive to be impeccable with your word. I talked about this in another post, though I think it bares repeating. Say what you mean and mean what you say. If you say that you want to do something, then do it! I know that some of the things we want to do requires work and pushing through any and all obstacles and, above all, time. But that’s okay.

It’s okay if you can’t achieve your goals in a day, or a week, or even a year. That’s not the point of change. Change is ongoing, so don’t be discouraged by time. And don’t let it control when or even why you want to begin the process of changing something in your life, either.

Just do it.

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新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè: This means ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin). Today marks the first day of Lunar New Year, where many celebrations will occur to welcome the beginning of the new year. Whether you celebrate Lunar New Year or not, here are some interesting tidbits that will give you a better idea of what the holiday is all about.

1. Lunar New Year is celebrated in several Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

2. According to Chinese astrology, each year is associated with an animal sign. The Chinese zodiac is a calendar system in which each of the years in the 12-year cycle is named after an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

3. Lunar New Year lasts 15 days. Beginning on January 31, 2014 and ending on February 14, 2014, Lunar New Year lasts about two weeks.

4. Lunar New Year traditions are observed and celebrated. A few traditions include exchanging money or treats in red envelopes, attending or participating in a parade, setting off firecrackers (the loud noises ward off bad spirits and bad luck), wearing red clothing, cooking Chinese dumplings, and decorating your home.

5. The color red is meant to scare away evil spirits. Red is also the color and symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. Many people will wear red or hang red decorations and paintings.

6. The number “8” symbolizes good luck and wealth because the Chinese word for “8” rhymes with fortune or wealth.

7. Sweet treats are a must. Some favorites include traditional candies made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, red melon seed, coconut, and candied melon.

8. Lunar New Year is symbolic of releasing the past and welcoming change and new beginnings. Use this time to clean your home and make a fresh start. Set new goals for yourself and pay attention to what you want to focus on for the coming year.

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The holidays are not just a great time for seeing family, listening to Christmas music, or enjoying time off from your studies, but it is also a great excuse to get ahead and use that time wisely. When on holiday break, create a healthy balance for yourself by lounging and doing absolutely nothing so you can recover from the late nights school often requires, but also spend some of your days taking advantage of not having work to accomplish some other things you may have wanted to do. Here are 10 ways you can be productive this holiday season:

1. Get active.
If you’ve been swamped with school work and haven’t been able to find time to workout, this is the perfect time to start an exercise regimen that you can take back to school with you. You can test out new exercises that work best for your schedule and body so that you can maintain an active lifestyle when school and work picks back up.

2. Evaluate the past year and set goals. 
Now that you don’t have to worry about finals, take some time to think about how your past year went and what things you can improve upon. What goals do you have? Are there any bad habits you want to break?

3. Pick up a new hobby.
When academics, extracurriculars, team sports, and side projects take over your weekdays and weekends, it can be hard to fit in a fun hobby when it isn’t something that might “look good on your resume.” Use the holiday break to learn a new hobby and try an activity that you have been dreaming of doing.

4. Reach out to people.
Use your time to re-connect with old friends, or to make new connections. Set-up brief informational interviews to get ahead during your time off. The holidays are a busy time for many, but you never know, people might have a spare fifteen minutes to take a phone call to answer questions you have about the industry they are in, their job, or advice they have for getting your foot in the door.

5. Read. 
It can be as simple as that. Read a book that isn’t required. Spend your afternoons relaxing and catching up on great literature.

6. Do a Winternship.
Depending on how long of a break you have, you may want to use these couple of weeks or month to shadow a professional in an industry that you are intrigued by, or to try to get a winternship. Even though the winternship or job shadowing would only be for a couple of weeks, you can still get a good idea of what a certain job entails and if it is still something you are interested in.

7. Volunteer.
During this time of year, there are many organizations that can use a pair of extra hands. Volunteer at a toy drive, soup kitchen, animal shelter, or book drive. There are endless opportunities for getting involved, and your time will be greatly appreciated.

8. Sleep.
You’re probably exhausted from working so hard during the quarter/semester, so why not use this time to catch some zzz’s? Sleep in, go to sleep early, take midday naps – anything that will give your body the rest it needs.

9. Be a tourist in your own city.
It is so easy to take your city for granted. Spend a day going to visit the local museums, tourist attractions, and walking around the city parks. Who knows what you’ll learn or discover. Maybe you’ll even grow to love your home even more.

10. Make plans.
When school picks back up, you won’t have as much time to plan for the months ahead. Get a head start on summer internship or job applications, spring break plans, service trips, and family time. Even if they are brief notes jotted down on a piece of scrap paper, get your ideas onto paper. This is the first step in making your ideas come to life.

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