Why September Is the Best Time to Set New Goals

published Sep 11, 2021
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Growing up, picking out my outfit for the first day of school was a really big deal. It set the tone for the kind of school year I was going to have, and the person I was going to be. There was a year where I loved wearing my soccer practice clothing to school, and others when I would lean into what I thought a “cool girl” would wear. Either way, September was a time where I got to decide, how do I want to show up? What is this school year all about for me? 

I’ve been out of school for some time now, but the feelings I have once September rolls around are very similar. January is typically the time of year where you sit down and think about what goals you’d like to set for the new year, but I often find myself still needing time to recover from the holidays (plus, the time between Christmas and Jan. 1 is quite short). September, on the other hand, invites you to switch up your routines, change out your wardrobes, and start fresh. Perhaps Gretchen Rubin said it best: September is the other January. 

Not only does September ring in a new school year, it’s also Rosh Hashanah, aka the Jewish new year. I’ll never forget the year my neighbor left a gift bag full of apples and honey on my doorstep, with a note wishing my husband and me a sweet new year. It was such a thoughtful and meaningful gesture, and a reminder of the many fresh starts this time of year can provide.

Rosh Hashanah, heading back to school, and the shift in seasons from summer to fall all mark a new chapter, and the winds of change that September brings fully support setting some new goals. Whether you’re majorly inspired to overhaul your daily routines, or if you simply want to carve out time to reflect on the year you’ve had so far, here are a few tips to help you get started. 

Celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far. 

Yes, it’s already nine months into the year. And even if this year looks different than the one you envisioned in January, taking time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished so far, no matter how small, can help set the tone for what’s ahead. There’s even a scientific reason for this: According to a 2016 Gallup poll, accepting compliments and celebrating small wins at work is good for both your mood and productivity. 

There have been many times in my life where I blow by or down play accomplishments because I’m too busy looking ahead of me, or I’m preoccupied with what’s next. Being conscious of moments where I see that I’m actually doing great, in spite of my inner thoughts telling me otherwise, is a victory. If I finish a big work project, or if I’m finally able to check that thing that I’ve procrastinated on off my to-do list, celebrating can look like telling myself good job, or even ending my work day early and treating myself to take-out. 

So before you dive in and revamp certain aspects of your lifestyle, show yourself some love for getting to this point of the year. You may still be in the midst of a global pandemic, and dealing with any number of personal, professional, and communal issues, yet here you are, still standing. You deserve some praise, even if it’s coming from yourself. 

If you set goals in January, check back in with them. 

Whether you set New Year’s Resolutions, chose a word for the year, or decided that this was the year you were finally going to start meditating, now is a great time to check back in with yourself and those goals. As Marin Laukka, a life coach and the author of “Ready Enough: Your 7-Step Guide for Life’s Hardest Decisions,” tells Apartment Therapy, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few introspective questions. 

“At the beginning of this year, what did you imagine for yourself?” she says. “Compared to the first part of this year, and looking forward to the last half of the year: What is one thing you would like to stop, one thing you would like to start, and one thing you would like to continue?” 

If you look back and see that you’re off-course from the goals you set at the beginning of the year, there’s no shame in setting new goals that better align with where you are now. Or perhaps you’re right on track, and re-committing to what you’re already doing will serve you best.

I’ve been picking a word for the year instead of resolutions for a few years now, and my word for 2021 is “refresh.” Coming back to my word again this month reminded me that I’ve come a long way since January, and I actually have refreshed many of my habits and routines. It’s taken time to find what works for me — including a skincare routine — and I could push myself and take things a step further, but instead, I’m inspired to stick with what I’ve been doing. Goal setting doesn’t have to be about adding more; sometimes it’s re-committing to what’s already working.  

Reflect on how you’d like to start, or end your year. 

There are many ways to reflect and dream about the rest of the year ahead, whether you prefer to meditate,  journal, or get outside for a brisk walk with a friend. Journaling has always been my go-to, and in preparation for writing this article, I took 20 minutes or so to write out how I want to end the year. 

Going back through and seeing what I wrote down was also a great way to pinpoint tangible goals and action steps for moving forward. While journaling, I realized I want to feel more rested, which prompted me to check in with the parts of my day that I’ve recently found draining. Sure enough, I realized I’ve been hitting it hard at the gym lately and have been feeling pretty beat up post-workout as a result. My new goal is to practice yoga at least twice a week, and add an extra rest day to my schedule. 

If setting new goals feels like a bit too much, or if you prefer to stay more introspective, you can try Do You 10Q, a free service that emails you a question a day for 10 days, starting on Rosh Hashanah. According to the frequently asked questions on the  Do You 10Q website, “10Q was inspired by the traditional ten days of reflection that occur between the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a period of time that’s long been considered an opportunity to look at where you’re at, where you’ve come from, and where you’re heading.” Do You 10Q provides you with the option of keeping your answers private, or sharing them with the 10Q editorial staff and community, either anonymously or credited. To top it off, 10Q will email your responses to you a year later as an opportunity to reflect, when the process starts again.