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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

It’s funny how we, as adults, look at the end of a calendar year. We tend to have two separate columns in our personal ledger: One that looks back at what we accomplished – or failed to accomplish – during the preceding twelve months, and another that is mostly hopeful for the fresh start that January 1 brings.

We even make a big deal out of the transition from the old year to the new, with talk of big changes and renewed goals. We make (mostly) inane resolutions. We even throw elaborate parties, as if we’re breaking through a barrier into “the future.”

It’s funny, really. New Year’s Eve is one of the most overhyped days of the year, one that rarely lives up to our expectations, and yet we dutifully go through all of the same steps year after year. My guess is that you’re pretty much the same person at 10AM on January 1st as you were at 10AM on December 31st, with the exception of perhaps a headache.

But unless we make a big deal out of it in front of them, our kids really don’t get too worked up over the calendar flip. It’s mostly an adult rite of passage; if the kids get excited, it’s usually only because we are acting differently.

The student equivalent of New Year’s Day is the late-summer beginning of a new school year. That’s when their world flips the calendar and a fresh start takes place. They have their own resolutions, their own social gatherings, along with plenty of surrounding hype from the news media and retailers bombarding the airwaves with ‘back to school’ announcements.

When you get right down to it, though, both adults and students have fooled themselves into thinking that they need a calendar in order to implement personal improvements. Adults use January 1 to start a diet, or to begin doing more charitable work. Some students vow on their first day of school to be more diligent in their studies, or to explore new opportunities.

We’re all missing the point. The minute you decide that a change is necessary – whether it’s better fitness or more of an emphasis on academics – that’s when the change should begin. Assigning a ‘start date’ implies – maybe subconsciously – that you’re not serious about your resolve, but rather following some preordained script that pop culture has laid out.

Ignore the calendar and its phony fresh beginnings.

This year, talk with your students about how to make positive changes at the moment they occur to them. Discuss how waiting for a calendar to change is merely procrastination, a way of fooling ourselves into thinking we’re serious this time. The most important, most meaningful, and most thoughtful changes we make in our lives are ones that are spontaneous and immediate. If we put them off, we dilute their power.

Happy New You. Starting now.

Dom  Testa is an author, speaker, morning radio show host, and has kept a ficus tree alive for twenty two years. He’s also the founder and president of The Big Brain Club, a non-profit foundation that helps young people embrace the idea that Smart Is Cool. More info at www.DomTesta.com.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who don’t need a calendar to make improvements.