It’s the first of January again, and all over the world, people are making personal resolutions for 2014. Amazing what a date can do, isn’t it? Millions of humans scattered around the globe, all simultaneously attempting to better their lives by altering their own behavior in positive ways. For many, a new year offers an incentive, a reason to push towards self-improvement or greater satisfaction with one’s life and one’s being. And what better day to feel as if you’re starting over than New Year’s Day? It’s a day of reflection on the year gone by and on the year yet to come. It’s a day in which to consider whether we’re moving towards the goals we’ve set for ourselves, or whether we need to change the paths we’re on in order to come closer to achieving them. And the making of resolutions is perhaps the vital final step of this process, because there’s little point in evaluating the state of our lives if we don’t then utilize our conclusions to bring us one step closer to happiness.
The trouble with the New Year’s resolution is that, by its very nature, it doesn’t take effect until after the end of the current year. And in a backhanded way, this encourages us to wait to act upon our resolve. We don’t exercise in December because we’ve decided to get in shape after the holidays. We don’t quit smoking in October because, without the motivation of the New Year’s resolution, we’re afraid we’ll fail. We don’t start tucking money away in August for that dream vacation we’ve always wanted to take, because there’s school clothes shopping to do, and then the holidays are coming up, and once again, we’ve postponed that project to another year.
And then what happens when we, as we inevitably must, fail to keep some of those resolutions we made in so much earnest? We wait again. We try again – the following year. How much of our lives are wasted waiting for this imaginary turning point to roll around so that we can make those changes we believe are so vital to our well-being and sense of fulfillment?
This is the core of the problem with marking time in our lives by special occasions – it causes us to neglect all of the everyday occasions that would have served us equally as well in helping us to attain our goals. Maybe your sweetheart expects you to bring her flowers on Valentine’s Day, but she’ll be much more impressed by the bouquet you bring in November. Chocolate cake is sweeter when it’s not baked on your birthday. Why wait until New Year’s Eve to have a beer and hang out with your friends? Won’t your mom be more pleased if you call her in March just to chat, then if you wait until May to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day?
I don’t ever want to wait until January 1st to change my life. I might want to quit my job on July the 15th, or start writing a book on September the 24th. It doesn’t need to be the first of the year or the first of the month before I decide to move forward with my resolutions; any given Monday will do. I’ll derive just as much joy from turning my life around at 3 o’clock on a Tuesday afternoon in June, as at midnight on a Wednesday in January.
So that’s my New Year’s resolution. Never again to wait for a new year to arrive before I make my resolve. Never again to pretend that January will be soon enough for me or my life to change. It isn’t.