Once again we are greeted with the prospects of a new year. Most of us go into a new year hoping it will be better for us than the last one.
As humans, milestones are important to us. We celebrate the progression of things, the growth of things, the passage of time. We celebrate the beginning of things with the most joy and excitement: births, weddings, first days of school, new jobs, new relationships. We celebrate the end of things with mourning: deaths, divorces, failing grades or dying businesses, breakups. In general we humans seem to like beginnings more than endings. But all of these things represent—if nothing else—the progression of time.
Because we humans prefer beginnings over endings, the New Year represents an opportunity for us to mark a new milestone, often with what we know affectionately as New Year’s resolutions.
Much time and ink and many sermons and letters have been spent trying to unpack why, statistically speaking, people in America don’t keep their New Year’s resolutions. Just the way we talk about them can provide clues to an answer, since our language often reveals our true intentions. Perhaps the way we see “resolutions” is more akin to wishes we make.
I say I “wish” you happiness and health because I cannot actively make these things come to you given that I can’t directly control your genetics, activity, or dietary habits. I can wish that you do well in school, but it is you who has to put in the work to get good grades. Wishes are things we cannot directly make happen. In contrast, resolutions are things we resolve to do.
There is a practical reality that a lot of greetings and sermons don’t acknowledge. It is simple, but it doesn’t make us feel happy or encouraged. However, it is important to understand.
The truth is: you are the same person on New Year’s Day as you were on New Year’s Eve. You haven’t suddenly or miraculously become someone else. You are you. For better and worse. For some this could be a sobering reality. For others it’s a simple fact.
I would say that most people fail to keep their resolutions because they say they will try to without putting in any serious observable effort to make those resolutions happen.
True resolutions require action: deliberate, sustained, intentional action. Resolve is more than a wish or a nice idea. It’s a commitment to do everything in your power to make something a reality.
The truth is that you will initially (and sometimes repeatedly) fail at whatever you resolve to do. That is practically a given. Accept it. Don’t let failure stop you. Keep going. That’s how you progress forward. Don’t stop.
Resolutions are not about reaching the end. Resolutions are about progression.
This year don’t let your resolutions be so in word only, making them basically wishes. Instead, make them goals you choose deliberately to progress toward.
My hope for all of you is that you have a truly new year: not the exact same fights, not the exact same problems and failings. When you face the inevitable challenges, at least they can be different in a sense because you made progress.
Rather than repeating the past, may you press forward into a future of possibility. May you mark the milestone of a new year as an opportunity to move forward.