“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis
And so, we’ve done it. We’ve finished out one year and come to the start of the next. I hope that this past year has been a good one. That you’ve learned some new things, overcome whatever challenges you’ve faced, and that you felt good about where you stood as the year drew to a close.
The New Year is traditionally a time for reflection and renewal. It is a time to look back on the things we have done well and the things we wish we had done better. Most people use this time to make resolutions about what they want to accomplish in the coming year. Yet often, those resolutions are quickly abandoned and not brought to mind again until another year has passed.
Why does this happen? Why do so many of us repeat the cycle of reflection, determination, and ultimately failure at the start of every year?
Maybe we are being too hard on ourselves. Change isn’t easy. If we set lofty goals without developing specific plans then there’s no need to berate ourselves when life continues on as normal and there seems to be no room for that new thing we wanted to do. It’s just how things go, right?
Or maybe the fault lies in the dramatic goals we tend to set. In my own life I’ve learned that major changes usually occur in one of two ways; either through many, many tiny steps in the right direction OR through an unexpected incident over which I had little control. But sudden, dramatic change does not normally come about quickly.
A New Year’s resolution is like a high rise that was built without a solid foundation; it may stand tall and strong for a brief time but it is not made to endure.
But I think New Year’s shouldn’t be a time to criticize ourselves for all of our failures of the year we are leaving behind. Instead, it would be wonderful to be able to look forward to new beginnings and unknown possibilities. To think about potential changes with a view that is not rooted in shame at past failures. Hope that is laced with guilt and frustration isn’t really hope, is it? And resolutions based on this type of “hope” tend to feel more like burdens than dreams.
So, this year I propose a new attitude. I don’t want to make a list of resolutions based on past failures. Instead, I want to start my year with a new concept in mind: freedom. I am thinking about the things that have been holding me back and how I can move forward without those burdens.
For me, seeking approval from others has been a prison that has, many times, kept me from doing the things I wanted to do with my life. Five years ago I could not have written out my thoughts like this and shared them with the world. It wasn’t a resolution to “write more” that got me to this place, but the idea that I needed to stop caring so deeply what others thought of me. That decision led to a few new open doors in my life, only one of which being the writing I’ve always wanted to do.
So what is it that you’ve let hold you back? The list of ways we burden ourselves is limitless. Comparisons, judgements, frustrations, and ungratefulness are all threats to well-being. I want to live a life of joy and gratitude. Where I am not so focused on what I should be doing based on some arbitrary external standard, but am intentional about what it is I can do based on what I’ve been given, where I am, and who is around me.
It’s freedom. And it’s a great resolution to hold.