I stopped doing New Year’s resolutions years ago. It just never made sense to me: Come October, I’d identify a particular bad habit of mine out of the many I have and say in a few months I would stop doing it.
The only one I ever stuck with was quitting smoking, but that doesn’t really count because it was never a habit and just something I thought an English major was supposed to do on a college campus.
Besides, it was expensive and I was broke and it was more of an economic outcome than a triumph of willpower.
Other resolutions were abject failures: I still drink diet pop, still procrastinate and I hardly ever pack a lunch. When I drive, I don’t listen to audiobooks like I should but always gravitate toward sugary pop music.
Even this year, when I thought a good change would be to eat fewer carbs, I still ended up eating french fries before the end of the first quarter of the Outback Bowl.
These are all small things, though.
One thing I did change years ago, however, was to try to not be cynical. I still slip into it more often than I’d like to admit – most of it is because of the work I do. When you encounter real people in the real world, bad things happen. They make bad decisions and commit bad acts.
But I’ve also learned that rarely do people want to be bad. More often than not, people think they are doing the right thing in that moment, or doing the only thing that can do. We’re all human and, for the most part, do the best we can with what we have.
So I’m optimistic for the next year. And the next decade.
Years ago, a friend of mine read to me a list of “prophecies” he found on a website deep in the internet. Things that would happen in the next 10 years.
As with most predictions or horoscopes, they were vague enough where they could happen and probably would.
If you put any stock into that sort of thing, it could be unnerving.
As with reading those Nostradamus quotes that supposedly predicted 9/11, but only after 9/11 happened.
Looking back isn’t quite so terrifying, but imagine if you told the 2010 version of you what the decade would have in store. All at once, without context or a chance to catch your breath.
If not terrifying, it would certainly be exhausting.
Think of friendships that have come and gone. Family members lost and gained. Job challenges, financial struggles and successes. That doesn’t even count stuff in the larger world we had to deal with that, even if it didn’t impact you personally, It’s a lot to take in one swallow, although more than manageable over the course of 10 years.
The 2010s were exhausting. We all deserve a break. With the world getting faster and busier all the time, it’s probably safe there will be more coming in the next decade. If our 2030 selves told us everything that was coming over the next 10 years, we’d probably be terrified or exhausted.
Which is why there is something to be said about focusing on the present. Reflection is good – looking back on how we got to where we are and any challenges bested and obstacles overcome – and planning is necessary. But the only thing we have real, immediate control over is the right now. No amount of worrying or fretting about the future is going to change it.
So why don’t bother with resolutions? If I see something that needs to change, and I actually want to change it, there is no better time than now. Why wait and schedule improvement?
Whatever 2020 will bring, we’ll be ready for it. There will be a lot, but it comes slow and steady and we’ve all be able to handle it before. This year, this decade, will be no different.
Happy New Year.