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Blog // Thoughts
January 4, 2008

The New Year’s Thing – Resolution, Recollection Or Reinvention?

You know the game. Sometime between Christmas and New Year you catch sight of yourself in a mirror and gasp – I’m so old/fat/poor/lonely/unhappy/whatever – fill in the blank. So, we find ourselves making “New Year’s resolutions,” which sound like commitments, but are closer to wishes and dreams; signs pointing to a fantasy version of […]

You know the game. Sometime between Christmas and New Year you catch sight of yourself in a mirror and gasp – I’m so old/fat/poor/lonely/unhappy/whatever – fill in the blank. So, we find ourselves making “New Year’s resolutions,” which sound like commitments, but are closer to wishes and dreams; signs pointing to a fantasy version of who we would like to be.

Then reality sets in. By mid-January (or earlier) the only thing we are still resolved to is the challenge of accepting what we have always been.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is obvious. We fall prey to believing that just by making a choice to change, we can change. It’s a magical worldview where words shape reality. But who we are is already a consequence of many, many choices and a deep set of circumstances. Those choices we have already made, the contexts we find ourselves in are like rails that direct a train, they will pull us back to the direction we were going.

Often the process of changing some aspect of our lifestyle (like losing weight, or giving up an unhealthy addiction) does not cleanly start on one date, but proceeds through fits and starts, successes and failures.

One thing I have learnt from years or writing and making music is that often a second take, or second draft is worse than the first attempt. But, you have to push through that and face the frustration and disappointment, in order to arrive at something that is really worth keeping. It’s the same with tidying up, or de-cluttering; to clean a mess we often, temporarily, create an even larger mess.

I still set goals at New Year’s, I still think about the year ahead and what I hope to achieve. But, in recent years I’ve tended to spend more time recollecting, rather than resolving – thinking about how I got to be where I am. It’s helpful to make the time to think, not about the big and obviously critical decisions, but about the small everyday ones. So often, it’s in these small decisions that I start to understand how I interact with (and react to) my environment. I’ve learnt (the hard way) not to underestimate how much small frustrations, irritations and distractions can feed into a greater sense of unease with the world around me.

In the end this doesn’t really lead me in the direction of resolutions. No, I would call it something like re-engagement. There is a metaphor here with how gears work. Spirituality is not, for me, about some private and personal experience, or some mystical and totally vertical relationship. Rather, it’s about the fine detail of meshing with the world around me.

Of course, there is no special or peculiar reason to do this at New Year’s more than any other time of the year. In fact, maybe we should strive to do this everyday. But, this season does naturally prompt us to look and to look forward, to does naturally draw us back to people who have known us for a long time, it does naturally bring to mind traditions that have shaped us (or against which we have tried to shape ourselves).

Perhaps the most doomed resolution we could ever make, it to not make New Year’s resolutions at all?

[tags] New Year’s, Resolutions [/tags]

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Responses
Paul 15 years ago

yes i think that resolutions are often redeveloped and recycled – i find that themes i started last yr still remain this yr – after all i lost some weigh last yr in a resolution (which i then made myself open about to keep me committed) and now i’m back again using this as a springboard to repeat what i did last yr. I’m betting that come this time next yr it will be repition again 😉

Toni 15 years ago

As I said on Paul’s blog: I don’t do NYRs. Not something that fits my way of thinking.

Toni 15 years ago

I’ve just come back and re-read – did I miss the line “Perhaps the most doomed resolution we could ever make, it to not make New Year‚Äôs resolutions at all?” or did you edit the post?

Fernando Gros 15 years ago

Once a post goes up, I hardly ever edit it, beyond fixing typos.

I’m pretty sympathetic to the idea that NYRs are kind of facile. After all, if we see a problem in our lives, we should take action sooner or later, rather than just wait for an arbitrary date to seek change.

However, it does seem that the passing of years has some signficance. Personally, it might be tied more to Christmas and the whole effort to touch base with friends and family that goes with the season. It becomes natural to look back over the year’s highs and lows as one recounts the year over and over in conversation.

If NYRs are useful (and I’m in two minds about that, still) then it’s because they fit within the pattern of how we tell our life story – that’s something we can’t avoid doing. So what I’m wondering is if there is a connection there, then we can’t avoid “resolving” to do things about our lives.

So, the question that remains is how that connects to the passing of time – to dates, years and anniversaries.

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