Once a year, every year, something crazy, whimsical, and uniquely magical happens. On the night of December 31, we transport, transcend, progress — we even age! — by an entire year. No, this is not a joke. This is not some sort of mysterious sorcery. Don’t even bother trying to figure out this next-level scientific phenomenon — just accept it.
Actually, we’ve gotten quite good at accepting it. We’ve even developed these fancy things called “resolutions” to help us through this abrupt adjustment phase. One would think that, having gone through this process at such a regular pace, and for a number of years, we would get used to it; and that we would be somehow better prepared for the inevitable self-induced “changes” we face come January 1. But, in our defence, this sort of futuristic, highly technologically-evolved time travel is, in fact, a lot of pressure to put on a single person. And that’s not even considering that 7.4 billion people in the world collectively experience it at the same time (you know, give or take a few time zones).
And of course, by now you can imagine where this is going…
It’s your chance to wipe the slate clean! A fresh start to your life! It’s the day you’ve been waiting for! (Since pretty much last February, when you realized your previous New Year’s Resolutions were either unrealistic, not as easy as you thought they would be, or just plain not happening).
“Next year,” you said.
“I’ll be better,” you said.
“I’ll really stick with it,” you said.
And with that, you let yourself off the hook for the remaining 10 months of the year, and made peace with the potentially gruesome judgments, analyses and comparisons you knew would be waiting for you at the end of December. You had time to get back to that — later.
So, here’s the issue. For the most part, we seem to have missed a very important memo. This may come as a shock to you, but the act of physically changing a calendar on your wall doesn’t actually elicit a drastic change in your life. The only definitive promise we can make to anyone for the month of January is: for the next thirty days (or so), every time you’ll have to write the date down, you’re going to hesitate when you get to the year. You’re going to experience some confusion. It’s hard, we know. But, other than this extreme shake-up to your life as you’ve come to know it for the last 365 days, the reality is: We go to sleep and wake up in the same skin, the same bed, and the same four walls we said goodnight to the night before.
On the evening of December 31, filled with optimism towards the beautiful, clean, untainted blank-slate potential of the New Year, you might have contemplated the year behind you. You might have even taken to Facebook to write a summary of your accomplishments, thoughts, obstacles overcome, and lessons learned. You might have assessed yourself, and waited for the epitome of Facebook-form validation: collecting those esteemed “likes,” just in case your personal assessments weren’t conclusive. And, you likely thought towards the year ahead and you decided to make a few changes to improve your life. You might have even typed them up and printed them out, or pinned them to your Pinterest account with a cute header and graphics.
But, here’s the question. Is there something profoundly wrong with this universally adopted cycle of setting resolutions, fully knowing they have a three-month life expectancy, at best? If you need a date on a calendar to dictate to you when you should “get your act together” or make a change, why are you waiting so long to do something you (clearly) already know you want to do?
And finally, here’s the request. If you made some New Year’s Resolutions, could you ditch them please? No, really. Just ditch them. Forget them. Relish in the feeling of relief when you relieve yourself of that weird checklist that’s already weighing so heavily on your soul — at just about three weeks into the month of January. Instead, why not just make one simple promise to yourself? You will improve. You will grow. You will adapt, progress towards The Better You that you’re always wishing you could be on December 31, forgetting about by mid-February, and losing hope in by the end of March.
January doesn’t have to be the month of clean slates — if you work all year at making a slate you’re proud of, you won’t want to erase it come December. February doesn’t have to be the month of inevitable feelings of inadequacy, when you judge start hard-judging yourself in comparison to the Perfect You that you’ve spent the whole previous month trying so hard to construct (before ultimately realizing you’re only human, after all). And the rest of the year doesn’t have to be characterized by self-induced amnesia at the thought of any self-improvement — “Resolution? What’s a resolution?”
This year, I’m resolving to stop making resolutions. Instead, I’m going to make changes. What’s so great about changes? Well, for starters, I can do them any time of the year that I want. See? Freedom. I urge you all to try this.
Don’t just talk about making a change — do it. Be the change you wish to see in the world, and you’ll suddenly notice a lot more beauty in the world you see. See you tomorrow, 21 January 2016 at Pauza in Garden for TEDxKrakow’s 2016 kickoff event: TEDxKrakowSalon!