In the small amount of informal surveying I’ve done (friends and family, mostly; so perhaps not a representative demographic but surely an awesome one), I’ve found that most of us don’t muck about with New Years resolutions.
And perhaps there’s reasonable justification for that. Maybe there’s a feeling of artificiality, or maybe even self-sabotage, in designating this one wintry season as the time to stop doing this, or lose a few pounds of that. Some of us might feel that self-improvement, in whatever form, needs to be a year-round endeavor, and that focusing on it only when the calendar ticks over is at best merely dabbling in personal transformation, and a willful delusion at worst.
Again, maybe. But to those friends I’d respectfully point to the histories of every culture, of all of our ancestors. The ringing-in of a new year has always been a time for reflection—for a tallying up of the pluses and naughts of the year past, and of the charting out of a better way for the year to come.
And it can be argued that there’s never been a more needful time for that kind of reflection and adjustment. Anno dead-to-me 2017 was objectively awful, and I feel safe in declaring that I’m not the only one who thinks so. Something has happened over the last 12 months that seemed to inject into us all a junkie-sized dose of anger and unease. It seems to cut across all boundaries—even the zero-sum winners in the political and economic spheres appear unable to enjoy the fruits of their victories. They too are as pent up with this unnamed apprehension as the rest of us.
I fear this is a recipe for disaster. I fear this is how societies begin tearing themselves apart.
You might call it naive to think that a banal tradition like new years resolutions could have any impact on that, and maybe you’d be right. But I have to hold on to some related suppositions: That we haven’t gone off the rails so far that we can’t find our way back. That all of us, collectively and individually, have both the ability and responsibility to make that effort. And that we’re best positioned to do so when we’re living our best possible lives.
So if it helps, don’t bother calling it a resolution for the new year. And maybe don’t get so granular with the prescriptions and proscriptions. It could just be a matter of striving to do better, to feel better, to try your best. Those are highly personal, individualized programs, but if I might generalize, I can offer a few suggestions. Be less sedentary, be more active. Strenuous exercise is of course off the menu for some of us, and all of us have some limitation or other. But all of us can do something. So push yourself, a little. Get your heart rate up, and generate a bit of sweat. Next week, generate a bit more.
Expand your mind. Learn something new. You have at your disposal unimaginable resources for self-driven education, so by all means, use them. Educate yourself about something that compels you, that fascinates you. Then educate yourself about something that’s dry and boring, but vital for the future of our people.
And relax, recharge, and rejuvenate. Do so often. Breathe. Meditate. If “meditation” sounds too tie-dyed and new-agey for you, then call it something else; it’s nothing more than your well-deserved and thoroughly necessary quiet time, for the purposes of getting your shit in order. So attend to that.
At midnight, 2017 will be behind us. There’s no reason to think 2018 is going to be all that better, but then again, there’s also no reason it can’t be. And it will be, if we choose to make it so. If we resolve to make it so, you might say.
Happy new year, and do not fret. We got this.