An optimist's perspective on resolutions

December is always a bit of a surprise, and then it rushes by (at least for me) faster than any other month. For many, it’s a month that hurtles toward Christmas and is propelled by shopping and parties and decking the halls. For me, that target date, bright and imminent, is New Year’s Eve. Despite the floundering public perception of New Year’s resolutions (Empty promises! So cliché! You’ll never keep them!), I can’t help myself. Somehow, January 1st always feels like a fresh start, and I can’t miss the opportunity to reflect on the past and set new goals and intentions for the future. In high school, I was almost always babysitting on New Year’s Eve, and I would bask in the quiet moments edging toward midnight after I put the kids to bed. I’d take the opportunity to record important themes from the year, gathering up the threads and carefully noting significant challenges and turning points. I would set goals for the future, and yes, some of them would fall by the wayside within the week. The first to disintegrate were the daily life goals, habits I wanted to create, like getting a certain amount of exercise each day or writing for a certain amount of time. It’s so hard to wrestle your day or your week into a new shape when the rest of your environment stays the same.

And then there are the goals that seem to work themselves out on their own, without my having to try so hard, or the goals that are completely displaced by new ones. What’s most important is not necessarily whether I accomplish each goal within its allotted time frame, but rather what I can learn from the changes and consistencies between my intentions from year to year.

In the past few years, I’ve recorded my intentions for each year in a wiki. I don’t look at it often, but when I need a time capsule or a snapshot of my priorities and intentions, I know where to find it. I’ve also started a habit, which I’m sure I culled from somewhere in the blogosphere, to give each year a theme, so that even if the specific goals change, I can easily keep the intentions behind them in mind. One year, it was mindfulness, the next was wellbeing.

I think the coming year may be the year for depth. It’s the first time I can look out onto the year and know that it will not be shaped by semesters. It feels less temporary, and I am so very thankful for it. I am comforted by the fact that my routines won’t be overturned at the end of each semester, and I don’t have to live in constant tug-of-war with the breakneck pace of the school year. It will be interesting to see how time unfolds on the other side of all that. I am excited about putting down some roots in my new life. I hope to spend less time worrying about what I should be doing and more time just doing things well.