Since it’s a new year, I thought, why not follow the whole, “new year, new me” trend? Well, here’s the catch. I won’t exactly be following that trend. I am a firm believer in sticking to my goals, my aspirations, and of course my relentless routines. Although those do tend to shift here and there, a new year isn’t exactly the time to change yourself  entirely every year. Just because the year goes up one more number and the calendar changes, doesn’t mean that my entire life needs to be flipped upside down and pulled inside out. What it does mean, however, is another chance to wake up and feel refreshed, and yes, in a sense, start over– but more importantly– start.

Imagine this: you’re out, it’s New Years Eve, and the clock is almost ready to strike midnight. As everyone around you is preparing to toast their champagne glasses, yell happy new year, wave the past year goodbye and kiss their lover on the lips, you are just about ready to burst, or collapse as you subconsciously enter your usual new year existential crisis.

Now, you begin thinking about everything you did this year– good or bad. You begin thinking about what you could have done– again, good or bad– or what you should’ve done. As the clock counts down and the ball is just about ready to drop, you’re having second thoughts and boom! The ball drops and everyone cheers and you suddenly feel the weight be taken off of your shoulders.

It’s a new year.

“Ah, a new year!” you think to yourself, “Another chance to start fresh.” And now your mind begins to wander.

“Maybe this year I’ll join a gym, and workout 5x a week.” or, “This year I’ll get to planting that garden I’ve been meaning to plant, and I’ll start eating healthier.” Maybe, “This year, I’ll quit my job and visit my family more often! Better yet, I’ll take a trip by myself– I need a trip by myself…”

Pause.

The hypothetical ringing in of a new year should not be the reason you change who you are, or change your ways entirely. A new year is just another excuse, another push, or another motive to get people going and doing what they’ve been meaning to do. But what if I told you that by March, your plans will begin to fade away. And by mid June, they’ll be well gone.

Sorry to be a Debbie-downer. Now, what if I told you that you could use the new year as a similar, but different excuse. Rather than changing your ways, and setting goals that are completely far fetched, what if I gave you an alternative route, yet a similar path to becoming the person you want to be, accomplishing the things you want to accomplish?

Rather than using the new year to change, use the new year to get it all together, refine things, and cultivate yourself and your life entirely.

As an undergraduate student, life can seem complicated. By your second year, you’re supposed to know exactly what it is you want to do for the rest of your life. And by the fourth, you should be well into applying for graduate school, law schools, jobs, and the like. As a second year undergraduate student, I can tell you many things, but here’s one– I’m declaring my major this semester, and still have no idea exactly what I want to do, or who I want to be when I grow up.

Saying you’ll begin going to the gym, or you’ll make that trip you’ve been meaning to take is one thing, but did you ever think why you’ve thought the way you’ve thought for so long– or maybe, why you can’t seem to stick to the things you’ve been trying to stick to for years? To begin getting it all together, dig in and allow growth. Start by asking yourself a few, simple questions:

How is your home/family life?

How is your relationship?

How is your work life?

How are you?

What are you lying about right now?

What questions are you not asking?

What conversations are you avoiding having right now?

What changes in yourself are you not addressing?

What’s stopping you?

What are you waiting for?

All of these questions are great seg-ways to completely begin getting it all together. Notice how I said, “begin.” Remember, this is meant to help you start your journey of self awareness, and begin cultivating your life, rather than help you do it instantly.

1. Become Aware and Be Able to Address

The first step to getting it all together is becoming aware of what you are trying to do. At this point, this exact moment in your life, you are exactly where you are supposed to be. To begin refining, you must accept where you are, who you are, and how far you are willing to go. To begin refining your habits, your goals, and your overall life, you must be aware of where you are, and begin working towards where you are trying to go. It’s your responsibility to become aware. Next, address the problem, or grey areas. Address what you are aware of, and ready and willing to add some refinement to. Address, right now, what you have been putting off, or what you’ve been meaning to do or say.

2. Be Aware That An Entirely “New You” Isn’t Always Good

The purpose of this post is for you to not only begin cultivating your life, but cultivating yourself in the best way possible– to help you bring your best self out, and constantly put your best foot forward. Ultimately, changing yourself for anyone– including yourself– isn’t always the way to do it. Escaping who you are may work temporarily, but in the end, you make the best you out there. No one else is as good at being you as, well, you! So, remember that as you begin getting it all together this year.

3. Begin to Evaluate

Evaluate yourself, the people in your life, your goals, your habits–now, take note of where some improvement can be made, and take action. Whether action be a phone call, a journal entry, or a brand new job, make improvements where improvements are most needed. Evaluate what you’ve been trying to do for so long, and why you haven’t been able to do it. Evaluate what you’ve been thinking or how you’ve been feeling, and begin coming up with ways to refine, and control those thoughts and feelings.

4. Slowly Begin Refining Things

Are you looking to move into a bigger house? Do you want to take a longer vacation? Have you been meaning to visit your family? Do you want to go back to school? Are you spending too much time on technology? No matter what the goal, big or small, slowly refining things is the way to help change stick. Working at something a little bit every day is exactly what you need to do to cultivate your life, and make and notice change. You will notice the benefits of refining your life daily, once you are aware of the places in your life that need refining. In the way you wake up, and the way you respond to emails– you will notice the small change being integrated into your daily life, as long as you are aware and allowing of it.

5. Start Small

Ever heard of taking a jump? Well, that’s not what you’re doing here. Start small. Begin writing down things you desire, things you want to accomplish, goals you have, places you want to see, etc. Create a wish board, to help you visualize your goals every single day. Begin journaling– write about how you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what you want and don’t want, etc. Meditate– learn to appreciate what you have, and learn to manifest what you don’t.

6. Get Rid of Fear and Self-Doubt

Start building your dreams from the ground up, and stop allowing your fear and self-doubt to hinder you from doing what you want to do. However, you must be aware that things do take time– some things take longer than others. By no means am I saying quit your day job and begin selling small crafts on the side of the road (unless that is what makes you the happiness, of course). Start small, and expand from there. For a Buddhist, the notion of a self does not exist. So there, I did one thing for you, now you take care of the rest.

7. Clear Your Way of Distractions

This year, clear your path of all things holding you back, distracting you, or preventing you from achieving your goals. Whether this disturbance be a person, a place, or a thing– get rid of it. Focus on what you want for yourself, and what is best for you. Begin accepting things you can’t change, and change the things you wish to be different. To begin refining your life, dig deep into your life, and allow growth to occur.

8. Wei Wu Wei

The Taoist concept of “wei wu wei” translates to “doing not doing.” In other words, living your life “purposeless on purpose” is sometimes the correct path to follow. If you’re looking to lose weight, write a book, or simply discover your path in life, a Taoist would say, do not act on that particular path. Now, I am not saying follow this literally, but remember this in your attempt to get things together. Sometimes, not doing is the best way to “do” something. For a Taoist, wandering without a destination or a purpose, and being able to live your life open to surprises is a much more valuable opportunity than many people tend to think. In a sense, wandering creates freedom. Freedom allows you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. With the freedom to wander, what more could a person want? Being able to “not do” sometimes is exactly what you need to do, to get things done. Get it?

9. Focus and Follow Through

There is no way that this refining, self realization, or cultivation of your life will happen over night. However, addressing the issues, working towards making yourself happy, and doing things for yourself will ultimately make everything easier than you think. And, with time, you will be able to do everything with a clear heart and clear mind. It’s okay not to know where you’re going, it’s okay to set goals you won’t achieve, and it’s okay to make plans you won’t follow through with. However, make a plan today to start finding your drive, your purpose, and your end destination. Begin refining your life this year, and make it the best it can be. Even if it takes you your entire life to realize where you’re supposed to go, at least you can say you tried. Start doing what you’re dying to do– and start by refining your life.