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New Year's Revolution?



 

That blank calendar stares us in the face with all its various possibilities. It can be an exciting prospect. It can be rather daunting. ‘We could do a, b or c. We could go to x, y or z....’ There are choices to be made. Plans to be set. Determination to be mobilised.

 

The whole business of New Year’s resolutions is based on the seductive idea of individual freedom. Good in itself, but it can deny the fact that we are all at the mercy of forces beyond our control – heredity, the environment, the government, the weather, other people’s needs and expectations. And as we get older, our levels of money, energy, physical capacity. All raise their restraining voices on our freedom as we plot our course through 2024. It is unrealistic to deny their power but fatalistic to attribute an undue amount of control to them all.

 

More dauntingly perhaps, there’s a different kind of resolve: ‘we could become...’

 

It is easy to think that the older we get the more settled our personal identity becomes so that, as we approach retirement, we are pretty much fixed in who we are. What our values are. What our instinctive reactions are. What our goals are now. Leopards not changing spots and all that. But we are still naïve enough to believe that when you stop seeking to grow, something in you dies.

 

Public philosopher Alain de Botton is perhaps on to something when he says, ’If you’re not embarrassed by the person you were last year, are you really growing?’ Embarrassment is probably the wrong word but it does point us in the direction of a way of thinking which might help us exceed the limits of our story so far. At the very least thinking about the possibility of growth is an antidote to that most destructive of responses: cynicism.

 

So – if you’re entirely satisfied with who you were last year, you need read no further.

 

But if expanding your metaphorical lungs matters to you, if you want to breathe in some fresh air, if you want to grow and you believe it’s still possible, then consider this.

 

A resolution is most unlikely to lead to a revolution. It’s not impossible but it’s rare. Modest aspirations and small gains are more likely to be significant in the long run. Let’s not set ourselves up to fail. A YouGov survey at the end of 2022 found that 28% of people managed to stick to all their resolutions that year. We were surprised it was that high.

 

It’s very important to work with the grain of our lives. Anything else would be a denial of who we have become so far. Habits take a long time to become ingrained. Let’s not allow ourselves to be overcome with a sense of failure by the end of January.

 

It’s often a good idea to share our ideas for personal growth BUT our choice of confidant(e) is important. The wrong person could puncture our resolve with a sentence of incomprehension or cynicism(again! It’s the great enemy!) about the whole idea of personal growth. The best confidantes are those who take their own growth seriously and recognise the best in us as well as our flaws.

 

The ancient religious philosopher Augustine famously prayed: ‘Make me pure, Oh Lord, but not yet’. There’s some raw honesty in that prayer.

 

So maybe our resolution should aim not for a revolution but for an evolution towards a truer self. We are not leopards.

 

 

 

 

 

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