Opinion Columns & Blogs

New year’s approach offers opportunity to stretch

Each year is a new beginning – a chance to reevaluate, redirect and refocus our attention. At the end of each year it is common to have remorse, regrets for not doing things a certain way. We might even have an ideal self that we think about, but rarely set out to become that ideal. We may also think about what we don’t have and make an excuse for not having it by saying, “Well, if only this…”

I think these are fairly common thoughts, and it is all part of our fairly common struggles.

Despite our shortcomings and our daily if not hourly self-analysis, we always have a benchmark where we can turn the page and start anew. Among the many things that New Year’s can mean, it will always be an opportunity if not an excuse to start fresh. Old habits can be dropped, goals can be set and accomplished, and mindsets that led to remorse can be transformed into ones that lead to pride.

Last year at this time I was one year removed from college graduation. I had a job, but it was only part time. I looked for more work, but it seemed with each opportunity came disappointment. It was hard not to be discouraged when I knew I had given it my all, only to see my efforts fall short. My discouragement led to complacency, which eventually led to shame. The only thing more difficult than trying and not succeeding, was not trying at all.

Christmas was coming up, and right around the corner the new year. I knew if I was going to change my life for the better this moment was the opportunity. I could foresee change happening in my life if I just put my mind to it.

And so I did. I challenged myself to not only create goals for the new year, but to relentlessly pursue them until they became a reality.

New Year’s resolutions can so easily be false hopes of achievements that go unfulfilled and forgotten by February. We can almost laugh about our lofty resolutions after they are repeatedly trampled on by our old ways.

Knowing this, I chose not to view New Year’s as a laughable goal, but as a starting point for my new mindset. I set tangible goals of getting a full-time job within three months and applying to be a community columnist for The News Tribune. The prior year I had missed the columnist deadline due to procrastination, a regret that had a full year to percolate before I could redeem myself.

Within two weeks I had my first job interview in 2014, which ended by being walked out the door and told, "Keep selling yourself. Keep trying." Another way of saying, “You're not getting this job.”

On the other front, I applied to The News Tribune to be a community columnist and received an email response: “Thanks for submitting your application to be a 2014 guest columnist. The competition is very stiff, so even good writers may not get selected." That was my cue to not get my hopes too high.

Although I figured neither of these ventures would yield the result I was hoping, I stayed positive and kept at my goals.

One week later, unexpectedly, I received a phone call from the same company that told me to keep selling myself. They gave me a job offer. My three-month goal was realized within three weeks.

As far as The News Tribune guest columnist opportunity – well, this story would not be known if I hadn’t reached that goal as well. A genuine change in mindset and effort led to genuine change.

So as this year is drawing to a close, I find myself in familiar waters. Knowing the outcomes that are possible when truly sought after is encouraging. Who knows what lies ahead of us in the new year? But with a change in ourselves and a fresh start, we may not just meet, but even exceed what we thought was possible.

Ben Kastenbaum of Tacoma, a graduate of Stadium High School and the University of Puget Sound, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email him at benkastenbaum@gmail.com.