Every end-of-December is met with a stream of New Years Resolutions, excited (and occasionally desperate) promises to "do better next time." This tradition is so popular that the American government actually tracks the most common resolutions and provides resources to help people fulfill them.
These common resolutions say a lot about who we are as a country, but our generation is doing them differently. Here how 20-somethings are redefining our most popular national wishes.
1. "Lose Weight"
Judging from the American obesity epidemic (more than one third of adults in America are obese) this is a pretty obvious resolution. I would venture to say that among 20-somethings, this resolution has been modified to: "Find Balance (and less microbrewed beer)."
We're the first generation to have grown up with up-to-the-minute health information. We've known for years that fast food is bad, that there is no magic bullet for healthy living, and that trendy diets usually backfire. Far from eating too much, we are emerging from our college days with rampant eating disorders. For us, finding a healthy and sustainable balance is far more important than a blanket "lose weight" challenge.
2. "Volunteer to Help Others"
Countless op-eds have been published about how this is evidence of our selfishness when, in reality, we are simply finding new ways to give back. With 20-somethings has come the rise of social good agendas in business on a national scale — instead of just volunteering, we've discovered that we can save the world and make money at the same time.
3. "Get a Better Education"
Not if $1.2 trillion in college debt has anything to say about it. If this resolution is on any 20-something's list, it's either got a serious price tag (think grad school) or involves reading used art history textbooks between Orange is the New Black episodes. Not a bad idea actually.
4. "Get a Better Job"
Also known as "Get a Job That Actually Pays Money." For those of us who do have a money-paying job, "better" probably means being our own boss — over half of us would like to start a business. If we actually pull through with this resolution, there’s no telling what kind of crazy changes 2014 will bring.
5. "Save Money"
What money? See Resolution Number 7.
6. "Manage Stress"
And then some. According to the American Psychological Association, millennials are the most stressed generation in the country. There are a lot of reasons for this, most of them somehow related to Resolution Number 5. Dear Baby Boomer employers, mental health breaks are necessary. Dear fellow millennials, a three-week Argentinian surf spirit quest might not be the answer.
7. "Manage Debt"
If you are a 20-something and you aren't saddled with student loan debt, consider yourself lucky and start seriously paying down that credit card. A delightfully uplifting Wall Street Journal article last month summarized the situation well: "Millennials Wary of Borrowing, Struggling with Debt Management."
We know debt is bad, we know it only gets worse the farther in you go, but somehow we can't figure out how to get out from under the money we never actually had. Hopefully, 2014 will see a sizeable decrease in debt. Then again, if we go through with starting that new business (see Resolution Number 4), it probably won't.
8. "Take a Trip"
Enter Instagram envy. All year there seems to be endless march of #nofilter sunsets, palm trees and iconic architecture streaming through our feeds. It's no wonder this one is high on our list too: we 20-somethings value our mobility.
9. "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"
Sustainability is a hallmark 20-something value, but we could always do better. Look for quality over quantity, cut down on Forever 21 binges, buy local, start a community garden, and actually pay attention to how much you throw away every day (maybe do this one before starting a community garden). Cutting down on disposables like ziplock bags can help save your wallet, too.
10. "Drink Less Alcohol"
Let's be honest, whether you're a 20-something or a boomer, this one never lasts.