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Habits to Leave Behind for a Fresh Start

Girl drawing heart in a mirror

In the blink of an eye, we’ve arrived in February. 

For many, the end of 2022 likely felt a little bittersweet. Heading into a new year always feels fresh and exciting, but year-end reflections on our growth can leave us discouraged—like we didn’t have enough time to achieve our personal goals. 

We tend to begin the year with optimism, searching for ways to change, to grow. We often immediately think up New Year’s resolutions, promising to establish new habits that involve taking giant leaps. I was no exception—I used to tweet “Finally become an adult; save money; stop drinking so much bubble tea” every January 1 without fail.

But counting down the days to 2023, I started discovering bad habits I hadn’t realized I had. And once I noticed them, I decided that as I head into the new year, my priority would be to lose those habits rather than make new ones.

If you haven’t yet set resolutions for this year—or even if you have—consider adding an entry that specifies your aim to leave any of these five habits behind:

  1. People pleasing 

It’s great to be empathetic, shouldering the weight of others’ thoughts and feelings as if they are your own. But there’s a difference between being kind and letting others walk all over you. When you’re constantly worried about what people think of you, find it difficult to say no, and tend to put everyone else’s needs before yours—these are telltale signs of people pleasing, which can be detrimental to your well-being. It’s important to learn to pull back, reflect, and set the boundaries you need.

Though this may be a challenging habit to overcome, you can start small. It’s okay to disagree sometimes. It’s okay to say no. 

Take a deep breath and remember to prioritize yourself.

  1. Staying in your comfort zone

It’s natural to stick to the things you’re comfortable with because branching out to discover experiences can be daunting. That might be why you’d turn down an invite to go bungee jumping, or avoid meeting someone new, or cancel a solo trip because you’re afraid you’ll get lost, or—as introverts can relate—decide against spending a night out with friends and instead choose to stay in the warmth of your bed. 

But even the things that are familiar to you now were once strange and foreign. Think of it this way: straying from the path will always feel unsettling at first, but the trail you create just might lead you to an expanse of rewarding possibilities.

  1. Fixating on the unchangeable

You made a mistake on an exam a week ago, a few months ago, or even a few years ago, and you still can’t seem to forget it. You recently turned down—or accepted—a job offer and now you’re regretting your decision. If only you could hop back in time and fix whatever you did, things might be different. Maybe you would be in a much better place.

Yet you can’t change the past or the things you did (or didn’t do)—you can only learn from your mistakes and move on. Instead of focusing on your regrets, consider telling yourself: “Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.” 

  1. Procrastinating

Everyone falls victim to procrastination at one point, and once you procrastinate long enough, effective task organization and time management skills no longer come easily. You can’t just switch gears and jump back into a productive routine when your brain is hard-wired to finish things last minute. 

Instead of promising yourself that you’ll “quit” procrastinating, a more effective approach would be to take baby steps. Make a to-do list. Note tasks on your agenda. Sometimes the trick is to set a billion calendar alerts on your phone to annoy remind you to work.

  1. Talking to yourself negatively

Negative self-talk is something that affects everyone, and it’s one of the most difficult habits to shift out of. You’ve probably heard this before: “We’re our own worst critics.” But why is it that you can easily praise and encourage others but can’t seem to be this kind to yourself? Why do you nitpick your flaws and overlook your strengths?

It’s impossible to be perfect—you’re only human, after all. Don’t let your inner critic become an invasive voice that damages your well-being. Instead, try shifting your perspective and practice positive self-talk. Give yourself constructive criticism that will allow you to reflect, learn, and grow. Most importantly, remember to treat yourself with love and respect as you would a friend.

Stepping into the new year always sparks excitement—and a fresh set of personal expectations. If you’re looking to create or revise yours, know that unlike pursuing new habits (which can be challenging to achieve and therefore demotivating), losing harmful habits may be a more rewarding and attainable approach.