It’s that magical time of year when people think the date changing will improve their lives.
Or, from a slightly different perspective, it’s that dread time of year when there’s a strong expectation [generally both internal and external] that we’ll sit down and write a list of all the ways in which we intend to improve ourselves over the coming 365 days – though, of course, 2024 being a leap year, we’ve got 366 days to look forward to this time around [oh joy].
Whether one sees the added day as an extra opportunity for self-improvement or as just another potentially calamitous pothole to be navigated is probably a pretty good predictor of how well we’re likely to make whatever resolutions we sign up to stick.
Anyway, New Year’s resolutions are not a bad thing in and of themselves, and in this modern world, largely shorn of the kinds of rituals and milestones that reportedly helped give our ancestors’ lives some kind of meaning, it is a good opportunity to take stock of the recent past and plan for the near future.
Then again, as a wise person once said, although a new year is a new opportunity, so is every single day. You can start over any time, any season. You’re one choice away.
But therein lies the rub – what choice should we make, what should we do – or more to the point, stop doing?
Because, let’s face it, giving up various things – smoking, drinking, over-eating, etcetera etcetera – are generally the most popular choices that people make when drawing up their New Year resolution list, and the most likely not to be realised.
You certainly can’t turn the page of a periodical at the moment without stumbling across some well-meaning advice about what promises to yourself you should pick and the best way to achieve them.
And the most apparently useful advice that annually floats around at this time of year is to ensure that the resolutions you resolve to make shouldn’t be so massive, and massively disruptive to the life you’re already leading, that they’re likely to be binned by January 8.
So perhaps don’t do that [but also, definitely don’t simply give up in general].
Instead, maybe the following wee anecdote, purloined from social media, might offer a different, more achievable approach to the whole ‘new year, new me’ conundrum.
It involves a Buddhist monk giving a talk to a class. Although initially he doesn’t speak, he just walks up to the whiteboard and writes, “Everyone wants to save the world, but no one wants to help mum do the dishes,” which elicits laughter from the audience.
But then the monk says, “Statistically, it’s highly unlikely that any of you will ever have the opportunity to run into a burning orphanage and rescue and infant.
“But, in the smallest gesture of kindness – a warm smile, holding the door for the person behind you, mowing the lawn of the elderly person next door – who have committed and act of immeasurable profundity, because to each of us, our life is our universe.
“So this is my hope for you for the New Year – that by your smallest acts of kindness, you will save another’s world.”