Setting goals as new year dawns
My husband and I have long since quit celebrating New Year’s Eve with anything other than a quiet evening at home. And sometimes it seems like the best part of New Year’s Day is that it puts an end to the holidays.
But while I like to tout my abstinence from New Year’s celebrations, I harbor a secret enjoyment of January first. It’s a day that offers up a seemingly singular opportunity to size up the next 365 days, to view the next 52 weeks as 52 golden opportunities for learning, exploring, experiencing and bettering oneself.
Which is why I also love New Year’s resolutions. Oh, I know some people consider such resolutions frivolous and bound for failure. Perhaps they are. After all, how many people have actually changed their lives by adhering to a New Year’s resolution? I can’t come up with a single example.
Nevertheless, every year the New Year shows up like a little silver bell left over from Christmas and I can’t stop myself from being bedazzled by the sparkle and jingle of it.
Over the years I’ve made dozens of New Year’s resolutions: I’ll be fitter! Eat better! Take up yoga! Volunteer at a food pantry! Read more books! Spend less money! Live simply! Visit more museums! Be more adventurous! Learn something new every day!
In truth I’ve never managed to keep my resolve for very long. One year, for instance, I vowed to read a book a week. By March I’d already run headlong into a tome that took me two weeks to get through. I persevered, but in April it happened again. Finally, three and a half months into the year I surrendered following the stark realization that, while I’d love to read 52 books in one year, I’m not a fast enough reader to plow through every single book I want to read in seven days.
So, utter failure? Well, no, not exactly. Because I never quite abandoned the concept of reading as many books as possible. Therefore, while I failed to achieve my goal — didn’t even come close — I did wind up reading more books that year than I otherwise would have.
That’s why, as silly as resolutions sometimes seem, as bound for failure as they often are, I still like to set lofty goals for myself and see where it all takes me. Usually, it takes me through February, anyway. By that time maybe I’ll have lost a pound, or learned some healthier recipes or cleaned a few boxes out of my overstocked basement.
I mean, if you never resolve to lose 10 pounds, will you ever manage to lose even five? And isn’t five better than none? If nothing else, weight loss resolutions are a guilt-free excuse (mandate even!) for tossing away all the uneaten Christmas cookies and going for long, refreshing walks in January.
So this New Year’s day I’ll spend some time cleaning out my refrigerator, emptying cookie tins and making lists of all the goals I’d like to achieve over the next 12 months. I’ll resolve to complain less, eat fewer sweets and throw away at least one worthless, basementstored knickknack a week. As simple as these resolutions sound, chances are pretty good that somewhere over the course of the next 30 to 60 days I’ll have forgotten or abandoned every one of them.
But here it is, that shiny new year glittering like a disco ball lit with possibility. And next New Year’s Day, who knows? Maybe I’ll be thinner, fitter and have a cleaner basement. And if not? Hey, there’s always next year. Laura Catalano is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in books, magazines and newspapers. She is a frequent contributor to Digital First Media.