There is something about a new year that psychologically feels like a new beginning. Of course, nothing has really changed other than rather numbers on the calendar. But it feels like a fresh start, nonetheless, and as a result, resolutions are en vogue this time of year.
The captains of commerce are well aware of this, and get-rich-quick schemes, diet books, habit change programs, and exercise equipment are all on sale at startlingly steep discounts. After all, what better way to begin a new annum than by becoming a money magnet, shedding those holiday pounds, and hauling home a new high definition television nearly as large as your living room wall?
Yet, while there is certainly nothing wrong with the desire to overhaul your life, I would argue that new year’s resolutions are flawed and by nature prone to failure, and I do not recommend making them.
Why? Because a year is quite a long time. While conceptually we can fathom twelve months, it is quite difficult in actuality to maintain a resolution for one day, much less 365 of them. Rather than measuring our success one day at a time, we condition the worth of our resolution based upon its maintenance throughout the entire year.
One significant slip-up, one failure, even several months in, and the whole year feels like a wash. Moreover, it is common for multiple resolutions to be made at once, increasing the psychological burden as well as our chances for failure, and thus, for losing motivation entirely. It is no wonder only around 8% of people actually achieve their resolutions.
Now, it is important to say that change is possible (though I don’t think new year’s resolutions are the way to achieve it), and I could launch into an extended review of the best way to successfully build new habits. I will not do that, however, as it has been done many times before. How then, should we approach the new year?
I am convinced that the best way to grow is to bring the sense of freshness and newness of a new year down to the level of each day. For each day is truly a new beginning. Each day is an entirely fresh start—much more so than a calendar year. Waking to greet a new morning is, in a sense, a resurrection. We rise from the grave of sleep to new life. The failures of yesterday mean nothing. What matters is this day, even this moment, and what we do with it.
Let us then indeed resolve to have a holy and healthy new year. But far more, let us resolve to make the most of each day. Let us give the first moments of our morning to God, resolving to serve him each moment. Let us resolve to make the most of the time that so quickly flees and, forgetting, like St. Paul, those things that lie behind us, strive manfully for our high calling in Jesus Christ.