Opinion: We Can Take Each Year’s Lessons (Even the Hard Ones) into the New Year

Before the challenging year of 2023 ends, most Americans anticipate what the new year ahead will bring. Millions make resolutions or choose a word for the year to come. The most-chosen goals typically revolve around finances, mental health, and fitness.

Like many Americans, I think about the end of the year and make goals for the next. Although New Year’s resolutions are becoming passé, I believe they grow self-awareness and help us to grow. But reflection should be part of our daily life, not just at the beginning of the year.

We can learn several lessons from the past year and grow from the new.

Make sure your opinion counts

The year started with Republicans and Democrats announcing their presidential bids. We are only at the beginning of a political wave that will continue to ramp up until the November election. Candidates will make promises, debate differing viewpoints, and attempt to persuade us why they should be the next president.

Why should it matter? Elections shape the nation’s political landscape — veto or sign the legislation, power to nominate justices to the Supreme Court, and take the lead in the armed forces. 

Understand the gravity of your vote. Determine who aligns with your beliefs and values by researching candidates. Then, vote on November 5, 2024!

Nurture your connections with people

AI took the spotlight this year. In November, ChatGPT reached 1.7 billion users by its first birthday. Growing concerns about AI hindering academic critical thinking and replacing jobs disrupted the workforce and institutes of higher learning.

Its abilities are unlimited. It can write papers, speeches, and emails and have conversations with people.

In higher education, we have learned AI should be used with caution. It can be a resource to give students an advantage in the workforce and maximize time. 

However, AI can never replace human relationships. It cannot substitute person-to-person conversations and interactions, be sympathetic, or be relatable or trustworthy.

Live with gratitude

Several wars and conflicts broke out in 2023. Early in the year, thousands of Americans remained trapped due to the civil war in Sudan. Russia and Ukraine remain at war. Tensions between Hamas and Israel are still at war, with fighting heating up. 

The past year prompted us to realize how precious life is, how to treasure time with friends and family, and how to value freedom.

Unfortunately, tragedies will continue to remind us of what we often take for granted. Expressing appreciation and gratitude increases happiness and improves mental and physical health. Consider all you have been given, from pursuing your aspirations to enjoying constitutionally granted freedoms.

Make the time to reset

Numerous events amplified fear and feelings of anxiety this year. In the United States, we experienced many climate and weather-related disasters. Remember the Maui fire? It was also filled with skyrocketing inflation and soaring interest rates, increasing everyday financial woes.

Over half of Gen Z worry about not having enough money, and anxiety is on the rise for all age groups. We must learn to disconnect from the outside world and clear our heads occasionally.

Set aside time to unwind. Turn off your phone. Pursue your passion. Try out a new hobby. Spend time outside in the peacefulness of nature.

Choose respect and kindness

Civility seems to be dead on university campuses. Schools in the Ivy League were again in the headlines for students endorsing Hamas’ actions and shouting down conservative speakers. It has been nightmarish for college leaders as Islamophobia and antisemitism continue to rise, leading to fear of fair debates and safety — and, more importantly, freedom of speech.

In a hostile world, we need more students willing to act with respect for one another, listening before they respond. Instead of approaching situations with hostility, consider the importance of others’ opinions, detach your emotions, and respond with kindness.

While there are many lessons we can learn from the year, we must remind ourselves how we can implement what we have learned into 2024. Once we do, our communities and lives will grow for the better.