Ev­ery Day Is a New Year!

The Washington Times Weekly - - Health&fitness -

By Ed­ward Hud­gins –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– J anus, the Ro­man god af­ter which the first month of our year is named, had two faces. One looked at the past year and the other looked ahead at the year to come. On New Year’s Day in an­cient Rome the new mag­is­trates would as­sume power; we wait un­til a few days later to swear in ours since politi­cians hung over from par­ty­ing would be even less fit for of­fice than they al­ready are.

New Year’s is tra­di­tion­ally when we re­flect upon the year gone by and make solemn res­o­lu­tions for the 12 months to come. Sur­veys find self-im­prove­ment rather than sav­ing the world is most of­ten on Amer­i­cans’ minds.

The most pop­u­lar vows are to lose weight, ex­er­cise more, save more money, stop smok­ing, and spend more time with fam­ily and loved ones. Most of those res­o­lu­tions, es­pe­cially the weight-loss ones, don’t last past Su­per­bowl Sun­day snacks and cer­tainly dis­ap­pear with the first Valen­tine’s Day choco­lates.

So are res­o­lu­tions point­less? Should we all in­stead re­solve not to en­gage in the fu­tile and doomed ef­fort of mak­ing prom­ises to our­selves that we can­not keep?

Look­ing back and look­ing ahead are not just the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a myth­i­cal de­ity. They are unique ca­pac­i­ties of all hu­man be­ings, as­pects of our ca­pac­ity for con­cep­tual knowl­edge that dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from lower an­i­mals. Our mem­o­ries can reach out be­yond the mo­ment in which we ac­tu­ally ex­ist to times gone by. We can re­flect that “Boy did I make the right choice earn­ing that de­gree, mar­ry­ing that won­der­ful per­son, work­ing hard for that pro­mo­tion” or “I re­ally didn’t get my­self around to fix­ing up the house for re­sale so we could move into a larger place” or “I still didn’t or­ga­nize that fam­ily re­union and some of the rel­a­tives aren’t go­ing to be around much longer.”

And our minds’ imag­i­na­tions can project ahead. “Boy would I look great in pants two sizes smaller” or “I can see my­self fi­nally be­ing able to speak Span­ish so they’ll put me in charge of the in­ter­na­tional di­vi­sion. And with the higher salary I can send the kids to a good private school.”

With me­mory and imag­i­na­tion it’s nat­u­ral that as healthy hu­man be­ings we would want to bet­ter our­selves. But a rea­son we of­ten fail to do so is our fail­ure to ap­pre­ci­ate the re­la­tion­ship be­tween means and ends. Aresolution is not sim­ply a set of words or some vi­sion de­tached from this world. If we want to lose weight, yes, it’s im­por­tant to pic­ture our­selves thin­ner. But the ends in this case los­ing weight are con­sti­tuted in the means. “Los­ing weight” must also be seen as hav­ing a salad rather than a Su­per-Sized Grease Burger with Fries for lunch and hav­ing fruit or yo­gurt rather than na­chos and ice cream for an af­ter­noon pickme-up. It must be seen as walk­ing the four blocks to the store rather than driv­ing. It must be seen as all the steps that go into los­ing weight. Our wills and imag­i­na­tions must work to­gether.

Sym­bol­ism is also im­por­tant to our con­scious­ness; that’s why we of­ten set aside cer­tain days as times to re­flect upon and honor what we value Thanks­giv­ing Day for pros­per­ity, July Fourth for free­dom. Thus New Year’s Day is a good sym­bolic time to place our­selves on a bet­ter path.

But we must take care not to be en­slaved by the sym­bol. My friend Talia who looks great but thinks she needs to lose a few more pounds ex­plained to me the dan­gers of the “start-onMon­day” diet. The be­gin­ning of the week is a nice sym­bolic time to be­gin a project. But if you fall off the wagon on Tues­day it’s an er­ror to wait for that magic, be­gin­ning of the week day to start anew. Don’t wait on the weight; do it now.

Dif­fer­ent cul­tures mark one revo­lu­tion of the Earth around the sun on dif­fer­ent days. It’s Jan. 1 for the West, late Jan­uary for the Chi­nese and all over the cal­en­dar for other cul­tures. But any day that you see the need to act to make your life bet­ter and hap­pier is the right day to start and to stick with it.

So this year why not re­solve to achieve all those great goals, to re­mem­ber that your life is a 365 day per year project and thus that ev­ery day is New Year’s Day. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Ed­ward Hud­gins is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the At­las So­ci­ety and its Ob­jec­tivist Cen­ter.

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