New Year’s is a holiday to enjoy, as well as one affording a reason to reflect on the year ahead and the one just past. Yes, New Year’s happens only because of the calendar, and a repetition of days and months. Arbitrary as the calendar may be, the return to a beginning of the year presents occasions for self-reflection and resolutions. Will this be the year I will finally change, get away from bad habits and successfully cultivate better ones, realize riches, achieve great things, and generally improve my lot in life? Every year brings fresh opportunities.
Recently, I’ve given up on or simply forgotten about New Year’s resolutions because I have realized (1) it won’t be long before any I make are broken, (2) that change will come at its own pace during the year, and (3) that any resolutions I make are probably changes I have been thinking about for a while. Making resolutions for New Year’s seems a little like winning the lottery: lucky if I keep them though it’s improbable I will. Though it’s true that you can’t win the lottery if you don’t play, the chances of winning make spending money on tickets a little like throwing cash away.
Mostly, New Year’s is an excuse—or rationalization—for hope. That part of it I like and find easy to relate to. I don’t need to make resolutions to feel hope. In fact, resolutions broken make hope feel false and futile.
Maybe that’s why I’ve given up on resolutions: because they prove counterproductive when they rob me of hope. Besides, hope is needed for many reasons. There’s the long winter ahead, the cold a bit anticlimactic and difficult to endure in the months after the holidays. Hope provides a lift to efforts exerted toward change. Hope also sustains a vision of a new, improved self.
There is the other side of hope, the one that is harder to acknowledge, perhaps. It can be a palliative to real change, an illusion that makes it easier to forego efforts at change, and that provides a substitute for exertions or attempts to accomplish a new, improved self, at least until it’s too late. Hope can take away energy or efforts to change. Typically, one comes to a “realization,” at least in retroactive perspective, that until then hope was preventing progress, change, or the “realization” of “reality.” Hope gets blamed for our own failures.
But, the blame isn’t an excuse—or rationalization—for eliminating hope, just as hope isn’t an entirely sound reason for giving up resolutions. There is power in believing that one can control and make positive change happen. No pain, no gain, goes the saying. That is what resolutions are all about. So resolve away: this year will be different than last year. One can change.
Proof came when the results of a recent study were announced. People can see that they have changed in the past ten years; they don’t acknowledge and can’t imagine that they will change in the decade ahead. It’s like imagining that change stops today, when, in fact, it doesn’t. Why not control the process a little bit? Self-reflection and resolutions are a start.
Whether it’s hope or resolutions, the New Year’s brings an excuse—or rationalization—for both. After all, New Year’s is a time to hope that resolutions can be effect positive change. Besides, change is inevitable. Hopeful resolutions can be a start toward positive changes.