It’s New Year’s Day! Hooray! Welcome to 2015!
I don’t mean that in a cynical way, not really. It’s just…well, I can’t bring myself to attribute a lot of significance to it. At least according to my anecdotal experience, this is not an uncommon sentiment. It doesn’t seem as though most people really think of either December 31st or January 1st as particularly important, even as we all more or less go along with the end of year hoopla and festivities.
In the end I suspect much of it has to do with selling things, as so many aspects of life seem to. This is the time of resolutions. It’s when people make promises to themselves that this year — despite plenty of evidence to the contrary — will be different. We will exercise more, learn to speak Italian, and start that side business we’ve been mulling.
These are all selling opportunities. New sneakers and yoga pants that quickly become loungewear at home. Language learning software and eight weeks of courses we’ll attend for three. There’s a real incentive for most companies to sell us on the idea of these lifestyle changes in hopes that they can parlay that into selling you actual products. When you take into account the fact most forms of media are really in the advertising business, it’s not hard to see the codependence between running stories and listicles on the which resolutions are best.
So I said I didn’t feel cynical about it, and then within a couple of paragraphs I disparaged the very notion of New Year’s as just a ploy by the Global Media Capitalist Elite Cabal that Controls Our Lives*. I do not wish to be that guy, but yeah, I guess I feel that way a bit. More precisely, when I get an email on January 1st from a company offering me discounted exercise gear to kick off the new year, I recognize the absence of coincidence in that timing.
I think there can be some real value in taking stock of your life at various intervals. The end of the Gregorian calendar year is a fine enough time to do it, though I suspect March 24th could work just as well if you wanted it to. I actually wish I did a much better job of this. I am not making any “resolutions” per se, as it would undermine the title of this post, but now that I work for myself I do aspire to conduct more frequent reviews of how I feel about things. No idea at the moment what form that will take, but because I think it’s valuable I plan to evaluate how I might accomplish that effectively in the context of what I’m doing.
That word — “plan” — appears to be at the root of my aversion to the notion of resolutions. It should go without saying that if a resolution is to stick it must be considered and planned thoughtfully, but that is not what appears to happen in most cases. Resolutions so often seem tossed off, vague wishes cast into the universe like pennies into a water fountain. These are not the foundations of behavioral change, which is what I suspect most people are actually hoping for when they make resolutions.
So I don’t consider myself to be making resolutions, but I will be making plans and setting goals. Plans to write more productively and predictably. Plans to assess my writing more comprehensively from a business standpoint rather than just a purely self-satisfying creative endeavor. Goals around weight loss and exercise. And so on. Not all of these will succeed, but I want to know why they don’t succeed so that a year from now I’m not aspiring to the same bad goals because I’ve assumed they represent something I can or want to do.
If you’ve made resolutions, good on ya. Best of luck. I wish you nothing but success. But to be fair, I don’t think luck and wishing will have anything to do with it.
*Asterisk used to indicate madeuppedness**
**Also made up