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Op-Ed Special
Start of Something New
By Carlton U. Forbes
Staff Writer & Columnist
2014 is the Year of Horse, and this year is especially the Year of Green Horse on the traditional Chinese Zodiac or Horoscope. Dragon and Horse are auspicious symbols to Chinese and other Asians.

Most people like to get something new. There’s a special feeling that comes from buying or receiving new stuff. Thankfully, department stores, discount marts, and shopping malls make huge profits selling new appliances, gadgets and other kinds of goods. Also, companies and factories are in the business of making new products to sell to new customers.

Almost everyone loves to get a new product in a nicely wrapped package. Most kids love new toys. Adventurers love new challenges. Entertainers love to put on new shows in new arenas and auditoriums. Teachers like to create new lessons and teach them to students, old and new. IT companies like Apple, Samsung, and Google develop new smart devices almost every quarter. They also use creative sales pitches and alluring offers to entice customers to replace their old models with the newest ones.

Now, it may seem presumptuous to suggest that the reader is probably thrilled at the thought of getting new things for the holidays, your birthday and other special gift-giving events. Now, how about the New Year? Do you have any new plans for this calendar-changing event? Are there any new goals you want to pursue? Is there anything new you hope to do in 2014?

The idea of having something new is so appealing, almost everyone harbors the desire for newness. Why? That's because we tend to dislike sameness. A lot of people are easily board with things that are commonplace, familiar or old. We long for a new course of action or a new direction; a new feeling, or sensation—a new point of view. So we often talk about turning over a new leaf, starting out with a new slate, or a new way of life.

In fact, the concept of newness is so alluring, it even influences our speech. An infant child is referred to as a newborn. Today’s children are called “the new generation.” A dramatic change in thinking and social trend is said to be a new wave. A new course of action or mode of operation is often characterized as a new direction. When there is an ideological, philosophical or political change affecting people from all walks of life, this social shift is usually referred to as a new era.

Naturally, someone who has changed his/her opinion is believed to have a new attitude or a new mindset. Also, a person who offers a different or unique viewpoint about life is believed to have a new perspective. Moreover, pledging to make personal changes at the beginning of each year is called New Year's resolution. Hence, the yearend festivity is often described in this manner. "Ring out the old, ring in the new."

Why is that? That’s because the New Year is like a new beginning. It is a chance to start afresh. As the closing days of the old year come to an end, it seems fitting to start thinking of new goals, new ideals, new expectations and experiences. For many, the New Year is a time to reflect on the past, to take stock of the goals you have already achieved, and those you would like to aim for.

Now, I cannot help but wonder, did you have any setbacks last year? Did you have any meaningful achievements? More importantly, do you feel more satisfied than regretful about last year's accomplishments? Have you set any new goals for the New Year?

Surprisingly, some people need a special occasion to set new goals. Others seem to need a specific reason to take personal inventory of their achievements. Sadly, some lack the internal drive to take the initiative, and commit themselves to goal-oriented endeavors on a weekly or monthly basis. So they convince themselves that the New Year is an opportune time to make personal pledges and devise goal-achievement plans.

Despite its seemingly favorable season, there is nothing magical or special about setting goals at the start of a new year. So we need not wait until January 1st to make personal pledges. Instead, we can make a new start almost any time: daily, weekly, and monthly.

In fact, the most important element in any goal achievement plan is the level of commitment one is willing to make. Those who are incapable of committing themselves to simple, short-term goals will find it difficult to persevere with long-term pursuits. So the calendar-turning event is more like an excuse to procrastinate rather than an opportune time for ambitious enterprise.

Indeed, resolving to make meaningful changes at the start of a new year is both admirable and valuable. Still, it is not a panacea for goal-setting strategies. Instead, it is a custom that can lead to both negative and positive outcomes. Like any other achievement plans, personal commitment is a critical element in one's success. Also, staying committed to a task when faced with disappointment and setback is both challenging and empowering.

Reality teaches us that most resolutions are broken within a few weeks or months after the New Year. Still, the goal-achievement plan is never a failure until it is completely abandoned. This means staying committed after each setback increases one's chances of attaining the desired goal. Fixing our focus on the potential outcome rather than the tedious process shores up our commitment, and boosts our chances of success.

Thankfully, successful goal-setting strategies are not limited to the New Year. Instead, it is an integral part of a successful life. Making personal pledges is something most high achievers typically do on a weekly, monthly and annual basis. And their level of commitment engenders optimum potential for satisfactory outcomes, regardless of the season or time of year.

So this year, do more than just make New Year’s resolutions. Make a long term commitment to replace bad habits with good ones. Set achievable goals, and pursue them with passion. Refrain from aiming for outcomes that are beyond your capacity and skill-sets. Instead, fix your focus on meaningful achievements that are within your reach, and make earnest efforts to attain them, no matter what. Most importantly, don’t be afraid to do a resent, in case circumstances prevent you from obtaining your objective within the expected time-frame.

Consider this! The true measure of success is the actual prize won; not the time you begun nor the eventual date of completion. Also, personal pledges and resolutions can be made any day of the week, and any month of the year. This means, any day now could be the start of something new for you.

The writer currently teaches Global English at Pusan National University. He has also authored a forthcoming book “A Few Choice Words.” He can be reached at

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Carlton U. Forbes, who serves as staff writer & columnist for The Seoul Times, currently teaches Global English at Dongyang University in S. Korea's Yeongju City. Among the books he authored are "A Few Choice Words" and "ESL Teaching Aids." A resident of S. Korea for over a decade Prof. Forbes can be reached at






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