The most cynical among us might suggest that New Year’s resolutions are just recipes for failure. We come up with new goals to help us become better, healthier, happier people but seldom follow through with the formation of new habits, leaving us as we were before – imperfect and far from self-actualization.
Maybe resolutions are hard to uphold because of their arbitrariness. Perhaps there is a subconscious psychological trick at work: If we give ourselves these goals for the new year, it will only be a matter of weeks before the new year grows into the year, which means that a New Year’s resolution would hardly be applicable any longer and we, then, are less at fault for moving on, too. To dodge this trick, let’s imagine the possibility that working to improve oneself is a worthy task, on any new day, at any time of the year.
It may also be that New Year’s resolutions are hard to keep because they are too ambitious. For instance, the goal to be healthier can entail financial expenses of gym memberships and buying better, perhaps even more expensive food. Working towards better health also involves an increased cost in time since one would have to actually go to the gym and cook that good food. Suddenly, the goal to be healthier involves much more than simply adopting the resolution and telling your friends about it. One has to do quite a lot to be so resolute, and it may be that these big goals (although important, valuable, and in most cases very much worth it) end up being too much, too fast.
The thought of New Year’s resolutions may be exciting in the beginning but the dissolution of our resolutions may also be very discouraging, especially if a pattern forms where effort, striving, and commitment are met with short-comings, challenged by fatigue, and are eventually forsaken. An optimist might view this pattern as one that always opens up to more possibilities for growth and transformation. In contrast, a cynic might simply mock the (I think, valuable) intent to improve and change. Either way, an optimist and a cynic could perhaps agree on one thing: the tension many people feel around New Year’s resolutions may be an indication of the fact that, despite our best efforts, we will always be imperfect and far from self-actualization.
With that said, I have a suggestion for a very easy New Year’s resolution that I am confident can improve one’s daily experience, one’s attitude, and perhaps even one’s interactions with others.
The tendency to multitask while we walk has been exacerbated with the ubiquitous use of smartphones and iPods, and all of this contributes to bringing our gaze down as we move around. Pretty soon the world is seen as all knees, shins, shoes, and cement. With a simple redirection of our attention, the world and our experience within it can suddenly change. Rather than just seeing the repetition of our feet (or the Facebook news feed), one can begin to see that there is also sky, there are clouds, there are trees, and there are other people roaming about. All one has to do is walk differently – with eyes and head up.
This small change in habit might not be the direct source of wonderful new experiences, but seeing a store that one might eventually explore could be, as could encountering a familiar stranger and exchanging a simple smile and “hello.” There may even be empirical research out there that suggests a connection between looking up and feeling up, but I think that the proof is in the pudding, so to speak, and it’s worth a shot.
Here’s to happy walking and a happy new year. Hopefully things are looking up on both fronts!