Oh you know, every year it’s the same “I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions” rant and for 2014 that’s not about to change.
I do my own thing and I’m pretty happy about it. Actually, more accurately as of late 2013 my better half and I do our own thing and we’re pretty happy about it. But, we’ll leave semantics aside for the moment.
“It’s not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more than in what they consider right and wrong.” ― Leo Tolstoy
The concept of resolutions dates back to the Babylonians and other ancient cultures that made promises to pay off their debts as a way to appease the gods in order to ensure successful plantings and other prosperity. It probably made sense to enact these resolves since Araḫ Nisanu, the beginning of the year, would fall in the Gregorian spring sometime in late March or early April.
Most modern calendar cycles however find the new year beginning in the, semantically speaking, dead of winter which feels much more arbitrary of a time to partake in such an endeavor. Perhaps in many norther hemisphere cultures where the long, unproductive winter could impart disrepair, disillusion and distrust the act of promise making provided a sense of hope and comradary, or at least provided a distraction from the grey.
Regardless, in the second decade of the second millennial of the Western Calendar even that hardly seems necessary reason to undertake such an arbitrary endeavor if we are indeed leading the productive lives we should be. Our goals can be made at any time and their fulfillment occur throughout the course of time allowing for constant reflection and resetting without waiting for the calendar year to flip over. It is in forcing the act of reflection and resetting pinned to an arbitrary, yearly date change rather than fostering the regular occurrence as a daily part of life that causes so many to fail at their resolution in the first place.
Half the time it seems the act of resolutions isn’t for the common good, or even the personal good. It’s a social construct of selfishness. Look at me and what I want to achieve (that you won’t). Look at what I did (that you didn’t). Our resolves are generic, broad, undisciplined, scripted non-sense that seek to provide us with a gold star just for having said we’ll try. What does eating better really mean to most people? Or getting in shape? Or reading more? What is the real motivation behind the goal? When will it be achieved? How will you know it has?
For me, my birthday is usually the yearly stock-taking of general success and as I encroach on my fortieth I feel mostly at peace with what I’ve accomplished as a human being and citizen of the United States, at the time as a fiancee and now husband, as a brother and son, as a pet owner, conservationist, radio DJ, product manager, aspiring intellect and so on. In ever aspect I could have been better, and probably should strive for even more than I do, however, on the whole met my own expectations and those of the world around me as much as I could ascertain. I decided at that point what I desire of myself for the next year and when I’m one year older and wiser in the second half of 2014 I’ll re-evaluate from a high level once again. I think about who I do things for and how it truly impact the beneficiaries, what being successful in the goal actually means and how I will measure it, as well as considering the plan on how I will go about fulfilling it. It’s complex and time consuming and probably why most people make generic resolutions they have no real ability to keep in the first place.
Besides, there’s other more meaningful mile-markers along the path of life though which will each have their own points of reference, their own review and their own new goal setting. These mean more than any 12-month cycle could hope to provide and are the reason I remain contently in motion, consistently motivated and continually growing.
I’m married now and within that relationship there are many goals and aspirations to achieve most of which aren’t things I’m going to post here. Being the best husband I can be and for us to have the most productive relationship we can have will require constant work on both our parts to grow as individuals and a couple in new and profound ways. We are not stagnant people and simply saying, ‘I do’ doesn’t suddenly define the context of our existence statically in time. Our promises to one another in our personally written vows allude to just that need to contently support one another and challenge ourselves to be better individually and as a couple.
One would probably assume that a year from now I’ll look back at the first year of marriage and contemplate it’s success. However, the act would be long overdue at that point. Our next step in this evaluation will be completing the purchase of our first home which as anyone who has been through the process would tell you it can be quite stressful on everyone involved. A great relationship isn’t defined on how you enjoy the good times but how you work together through everything else that makes up life.
But you’ll notice, I said the house was the next step (not the first), the previous evaluation came in planning a marriage as well as our wedding. The ceremony and celebration of our marital vows was quite the accomplishment, to say the least and in the strengths we drew from one another in it we learned a lot. The process came with many challenges financially and socially, personally and professionally, within the family dynamic and within our own as a couple expressing expectations and desires, needs and wants and how we could support one another throughout the process. It was the necessary next step moving from dating to being engaged and into marriage not only for us but for everyone around us who actively participate in our lives.
It wasn’t just our relationship either that changed. For me, my work environment continues to be dynamic and my responsibilities continue to morph as I embark on new products to manage, take on special projects and develop as a Director within in the company. These don’t occur at regular yearly intervals so they require constant re-evaluation and goal-setting for me to remain both a viable asset to the company and feel I’m personally growing within my career.
Similarly, the develop of my hobbies outside of work takes on a similar meandering pathway not defined by the rigid structure of the yearly calendar flip. The radio show has become somewhat of a leviathan shifting from showtime to showtime, station to station right now. Each turn it takes is an opportunity to review it’s strengths, resolve to improve its weaknesses and try new things with it. The same can be said for my interest in culinary skills… or photography… or even this blog.
Evaluating and resolving at each of those points during the year was why we consider ourselves successful. It allows for adjustment of expectation and accommodation for the unforeseen not because we are making a master list every failed accomplishment and desired achievement on Jan. 1.
Life hardly confines itself to standard measurements of time to begin with. If it did everything would always neatly fall into predictable cycles and everyone would consistently be aligned. As much as many of us would like to be creatures of habit, life happens and we can’t simply adhere our desire for consistency to single date on the calendar and expect that it will always be the right time to resolve what we should do next.
Can New Year’s Resolutions be helpful to some people? Sure. Will some people make effective ones and successfully see them through so that next January First they can check off the done box? Absolutely. And for those instances I wholeheartedly support doing as such. But, I advocate throughout the interceding twelve months it not be a wasteland devoid of continued reflection and resolution the way it becomes for all too many.
Each morning when you awake is a new opportunity to resolve upon waking to be better, to do more, to fulfill your expectation of who you are. Each night before bed relish in the same opportunity to reflect upon your days accomplishments and mis-steps. And for the time in-between morning and night the opportunity to do exactly as much as you humanly can and not an ounce more, or less, based on your reflections and resolutions.
As for the Tolstoy quote at the beginning, you’ll notice I never once set forth to judge what your reflections teach you and only barely make note of judging the resolutions made because what is good or bad is exceedingly personal and highly individual and so long as they are of value to you and you’ve put forth the actual effort in the process who am I to judge the outputs themselves if you can be at peace with them.