Each year I dread my husband’s enthusiasm for New Year’s resolutions. Coming off a stressful holiday season and still knee-deep in wrapping paper and leftovers, he likes us all to set goals for the year. It’s usually more than I am mentally prepared to do until after Christmas cleanup, but this year I am taking a new approach. This year, I am tired of being frustrated and angry. Inflation, governmental overreach, and an apparent disregard for the authority of parents and the importance of personal autonomy have reached a breaking point for me. This year I choose to stop being angry. Instead, I will focus on what is going right, and work to encourage it.

Rediscover your optimism.

In 2023, North Carolina saw a rebellion against the education establishment. When I first started in journalism, education was somewhat of a dead-end coverage beat. Education news only interested a sliver of the population at any given time, but no longer. Demands for transparency in the classroom and more educational choice came from parents of all backgrounds and political leanings. School closures during COVID awoke a sleeping bear. In 2023, North Carolina passed universal school choice. Now all North Carolina children will qualify for some level of the Opportunity Scholarship Program, on a sliding scale serving the poorest first, until the money is all distributed. Its clear that all parents want a choice in the learning environments for their children, not just those who can afford it. Shutdowns accelerated the school choice movement by a decade.

Its also becoming clear that the NCAE teachers’ union overplayed their hand in COVID school shutdowns, and is losing clout and membership because of it. Teachers are searching for a place where they can put their creativity and skills to work, and I believe the free market will ultimately provide those places. There is now runway for companies, civic groups, and others to build educational options for families.

On college campuses, students are refusing to be censored by leftist faculty and classmates and some schools are responding in encouraging ways. Demands for change in education, free speech rights, and medical autonomy are promising and reasons to be optimistic about the future.

Engage offline.

This year I was honored to speak at several community civic events and meet with people who are the boots on the ground serving others and making a difference in their communities. Speaking with them and learning the challenges of their neighbors, their industries, and their families sparks creative juices and new ideas. Retreading tired messaging and fighting online with bots and bureaucrats is out: Face to face discussion is in.

Encourage the brave.

I am continually amazed and inspired by those who hang out their own shingle and serve customers. It is not for the faint of heart and their contributions cannot be replaced in society. Whether it is a shop, a service, or a place to nourish bodies and souls, small businesses are the backbone that makes our communities worth living in. They boost our property values, serve our parents and children, and keep the warm glow of commerce alive. We must patronize their businesses and fiercely defend their right to operate free from government overreach.

Trust the system.

Sometimes I am caught off guard by the viewpoints of others. How could they possibly see an issue so differently than I do? What are they reading? What do they prioritize? This year, I will continue to examine an issue from multiple points of view, but also recognize that life experience leads people to different places. Whether it is a frivolous lawsuit, misguided policy, or a public statement dripping with disdain and disrespect for others, I will consider the source more often. I will listen to honest debates in viewpoint, and disregard those who merely antagonize for pay. I will trust that our system works. The machine of politics, policy making, and public opinion eventually weeds out and exposes flaws.

Live intentionally.

I’ve had it with the public loungewear trend; it’s lazy. It indicates to me that someone is not living with intention. Clear your space and your mind of clutter, get up, get dressed, and track your goals and tasks for the day, even if it’s just a few items. If something or someone deserves a spot on your calendar, then focus on it. Put the phone down and embrace the moment deliberately. We should expect that of our government too. Anyone who is collecting a taxpayer-funded paycheck should use Twitter, or X, to communicate but not spend their day on it. Focus on serving constituents and solving the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. Listen to candidates this year as they campaign for your vote. Are they intentional about fulfilling the actual duties of the job for which they are running? Or are they just creating an image with messaging? You are their hiring manager; make a productive choice.

As we move into 2024, these goals are broader than cutting weight or cleaning out closets but they will help cut through the clutter that obscures our vision: a North Carolina in which liberty and limited, constitutional government are the cornerstones of society so that individuals, families, and institutions can freely shape their own destinies.

Want to learn more? The Carolina Liberty Conference January 26-27, 2024 will dig deep into the core issues and policies that shape our great state now and for the future. Register here and join the staff of Carolina Journal and the John Locke Foundation, along with a powerful lineup of speakers, at this year’s CLC!