Happy New Year! It’s time for champagne and confetti! It’s also time for New Year’s resolutions, that old as time tradition where we promise to make improvements in our lives. Humans have been making New Year’s resolutions for thousands of years. The ancient Babylonians promised their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans exchanged good wishes and made promises to Janus, the god of beginnings for whom the month of January is named. It is a stirring testament to our great human capacity for hope and optimism.
I’ve spent some time this week reviewing my list of resolutions from 2012 and 2013 and thinking about my 2014 resolutions. My resolutions in 2012 and 2013 were goal-oriented. The lists included things like losing weight, blogging regularly, attending professional workshops, and reading more. I’m proud to say that I’ve accomplished many of them and some have turned into habits. For example, one of my old resolutions was to minimize the digital information I consume. If it’s not connecting me to people I care about or contributing to my life in some positive and constructive manner, it’s out.
I think the key to accomplishing many of these goals is that I strove to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. For example, I didn’t make it a resolution to read more; I made it a resolution to read at least one book a month. I got a library card, I made it a point to read a little before bed, and to read on my iPhone Kindle app during those five minutes while I’m waiting for the bus or train. I read over 24 books in 2013.
This year, I’m making resolutions that are less goal-oriented and more introspective.
Resolution #1: I will be an artist.
Korean novelist Young-ha Kim reminds us that we are all born artists though we come up with hundreds of reasons why we can’t be. I’m extremely reluctant to call myself an artist, but the reality is that I write and I’m pretty good at it; I take pictures and I’m not to shabby at it; I create rituals and I’m pretty good at it; I play the drums and I kinda suck at that, but I’ll get better. Art is good for you. It sparks the imagination, it’s relaxing, and it’s nourishing. This year, I’ll continue with my drumming, learning about photography, improving my writing, and just making the time for creating art in general.
Resolution #2: I will embrace my fallibility.
So often the reason we don’t embark on new adventures (or call ourselves artists) is fear, specifically the fear of failure. Kathryn Schulz talks about how we are trained to feel bad about being wrong from an early age, but being wrong and failing is how we learn and grow. Failure and regret shouldn’t be reminders of what we did badly, but rather of how we could do better.
Resolution #3: I will give myself time to achieve my goals.
I’m great with short-term goals and not so great with long-term goals. Like many people these days, I crave immediate gratification and grow impatient with projects and goals that take a long time to achieve. It has nothing to do with intelligence or talent or laziness or procrastination. It’s just a matter of grit.
Resolution #4: I will practice gratefulness daily.
Many people think that if only they had this or that, they’d be happy. I’m certainly guilty of this sometimes. If only I had more money; if only I lost weight; if only I had a bigger closet; if only I could teleport. These things probably would bring me some joy, but it would be short-lived and ultimately unsatisfying in the larger scheme of life. The secret to happiness is in focusing and being grateful for what we have.
Resolution #5: I will read books that challenge my perspective and beliefs.
I read quite a bit, mostly classic literature and religious texts. I read for enjoyment and for learning, but the truth is that I often read books that support my beliefs. In 2014, I will continue reading, but I’m going to read more outside the box.
I hope you have a wonderful 2014 full of joy, good health, and prosperity.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for 2014?