Monday, January 4, 2016

New Year: Nothing New Under My Sun

January 1st is just so arbitrary. It's not a solstice. It's not an equinox. Without going too much into the background of the current Gregorian calendar (or the Julian calendar that preceeded it) or the history behind the exact dates of New Years Day (as it has not always been January 1st), let's just say it's an accident of history, politics, and personality.

So, what's with new year's resolutions?

I suppose January 1st is a symbolic date. It symbolizes a new start, a blank canvas, and new possibilities. I suppose it's that very symbolic nature that gives people the impression that they too can create new lives, remake old lives, or change habits heretofore unchanged. Thus, new year's resolutions.

I don't make them. I don't see the point of them. There are already so many ongoing personal projects in my life, projects that I already have too little time to complete and often too little energy to even address, projects like growing in patience and gentleness, being a better father, writing more "letters" to my children, growing a better garden, and managing time more effectively. None of these were ever "resolutions". Each was borne of a recognition of weaknesses and the need to address them.

There's nothing wrong with deciding to make changes in life. It's commendable, in fact,  and a new year is as good a time as any to do so. Somehow, however, I think people look at a new year as if it were magical.

It's not.

Making changes in life patterns is incredibly difficult. Generally speaking, one must resolutely and unreservedly sell out to those decisions. Generally, you can't just want to lose weight; you have to decide to completely change your eating habits and activity levels, permanently. Generally, you can't just want to save more money; you have to decide to completely reevaluate how and why you spend money and make non-negotiable changes in those habits. Resolutions are generally nothing more than a fleeting fancy unless they are considered non-negotiable and permanent.

How do you know if a resolution will stick? Good question. Given that only about 8% of people ever keep them, the chances aren't good.

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