Editorial – Happy New Year

New backpacks. New outfits. New binders. Freshly sharpened pencils. It’s back-to-school time, and a change is in the air.

Unlike the Victoria Day weekend, which ushers in a more relaxed season, Labour Day weekend is summer’s last hurrah: the last big party before It’s time to buckle down and get serious.

Yet although it heralds the social end of summer, the Labour Day weekend is more about beginnings than endings. Coinciding with the start of the school year in most places, it represents a new year, a new chance to start over, and most importantly, the opportunity to get on, and stay on, the path where we want to be.

All the stores and shopping malls promoting back-to-school sales got something right: September really is a new beginning. And whether You’re four years old and on your way to Kindergarten or 17 and starting your senior year of high school, you feel it.

As adults, we’re not immune from the feeling—whether we’re students or not. It’s amazing, isn’t it, how a new pack of highlighters or pens can give us a new enthusiasm for our work. And there’s nothing like a brand-new set of course materials to get us excited about learning again. But initial reactions aside, all the physical trappings of the back-to-school season will only get us so far.

How about adding a fresh outlook on life and a new, revised set of personal goals to our back-to-school supply lists?

Much is made of the January 1 tradition of making (and subsequently breaking) New Year’s resolutions. But for many of us, coming off a post-Christmas high, It’s usually an exercise in futility. Since the start of the calendar year comes in the middle of the traditional academic year, maybe It’s time to move our good intentions to a different season.

Re-defining our goals periodically is the perfect way to ensure that we stay on target. And since it stands on the border between the relaxed pace of summer and the productivity of fall, September is the perfect time to evaluate where we’re at. Whether we’re hoping to attain educational, professional, or personal goals in the coming months, It’s important to focus the renewed energy that comes with the new season.

While it’s crucial to set broad goals, it’s equally necessary—and perhaps more so—to choose smaller goals, too, the ones we can strive for day-by-day. Even minutiae (going to bed earlier or limiting Facebook, for example) will ultimately improve productivity, which will eventually bring our longer-term plans or dreams into closer range.

Defining our goals, and committing ourselves to what we need to do to attain them, will keep us focused as September moves into fall. Better still, as we bid farewell to summer 2010, we’ll have a plan that we know we can follow, so that come summer 2011, we’ll be where we hoped to be.

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