We've made it! Clutching onto what little sanity we have left, we have managed to crawl out of the wreckage of last year into the bleak dawn of a new one hoping that this will offer up greater life experiences and opportunities than the previous 365 days. Somewhere, in amongst all the festive celebrations of stuffing yourself like a proverbial turkey or drinking so heavily that you might try and forget the year that was, many of us managed to choke out a half-hearted resolution to bring in the New Year with.
Most of these will have been flippant choices made on the spur of the moment or changes you've been telling yourself you will undertake for many years and have never followed through on, barely under a week in and some of you have probably already broken your resolutions. This is the way it goes, it's sort of an in-joke in Western culture that no one really really sticks to their New Year's resolutions (NYR) in our highly commercialized, convenience-focused lifestyles and yet it still causes us a significant amount of upheaval and stress when we do try, and fail, to keep an NYR and yet we persist in setting them each and every time December turns to January.
But what if I told you that NYRs are pointless, unnecessary, vain and damaging, would you reconsider your target then?
Time is Irrelevant
First off, time is irrelevant. This may sound like a profound, existential philosophy but in essence, it is true and contributes to our culture of convenience. A specific date only has significance because we give it importance, this goes for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and New Year. If you don't celebrate it, it just becomes another day of the year and so by choosing the 1st of January each and every year to set your NYR, you are giving this day an entirely unneeded amount of significance in your life, the pressure for you to change starts as soon as the year does and you are adhering to a time frame of just a year to achieve your goals so that you might set a new target for the following year.
In any other sort of action, this sort of response is considered a damaging addiction cycle where, despite persistent damage to oneself, you persist anyway because you just can't help it.
It is perhaps telling that we can change or adjust the way we live at any time, to adapt is to survive, and yet we only ever choose to, come the turn of the year. If you seriously wanted to change, you would not push it back until the following January, nor would you make it an off-the-cuff decision on New Year's Eve, you would decide on change and enact it. By undertaking an NYR, you are doomed to failure because, deep down, you know you are not serious about it.
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
T.S. Eliot understood that we present different images of ourselves to different people, masks of who we think they want us to be or who we want them to think we are. These personas change with each individual we interact with, and so we shift through a series of selves that are never 100% honest, reacting and interacting with other masks of other people.
Although this seems to be a persisting issue with the human condition, it is never more prevalent than when selecting an NYR. Many of us choose to undergo one of these farcical attempts at change because we feel we have to to signal to others that we are both self-aware and intent on improvement and yet, most of the choices we make are for vanity's sake. To lose weight, to get fitter, to cut out unhealthy habits etc. all of these are just fabrications so that we might convince ourselves that we are capable of these things and to signal to others that we are not so self-obsessed as to think we are not beyond change but all we are actually doing are highlighting our own insecurities.
Told we should be an ideal weight and physically capable, bombarded with images of perfection through superhuman models, actors and sports stars through film, media, and advertising, we aspire to be like these sculpted demi-gods, airbrushed within an inch of their lives and with teams of people dedicated solely to their image and outward appearance, we identify our flaws and fixate on them. We choose the vanity of how we look and are viewed over who we are as love-handles trump love in the increasingly hostile game of social media viability. As such, our choices are made out of vanity and not truly good intentions. Perhaps a good resolution would be to learn to love ourselves rather than seek the approval of others?
Not Big Enough Challenges
Most of us set NYRs because we feel we need to because to be human is to be flawed and we see that in ourselves. We see that we are not ideal and we strive for perfection but while most of us work on physical or obvious outward flaws, very few try to address serious human concerns. Most of us approach a new year with the question 'Will It Be A Good Year For Me?' A question that we try to address through the aforementioned vanity projects on ourselves and what we really should be asking is 'Am I A Good Person?'
Real, meaningful change comes from concerted effort and years, perhaps even a lifetime, of focused dedication and considered lifestyle choices. Our consumer culture has taught us the ease of disposable convenience, and this has carried over to our own goals and efforts. This year, and for years to come, I urge you to ditch the New Year's resolution and focus not on a meaningless attempt at vacuous, insubstantial change but to try, really try and change yourself, and the world, for the better!