The marking of time is important to many aspects of our lives. From insurance to taxes to benefits to medical treatments, the arbitrary demarcation of time into calendar years is employed by various bureaucracies to our supposed benefit.
However, when it comes to personal matters, the system falls flat on its proverbial — if not actual — ass.
As near as I can tell, there is no functional difference between December of one year and January of the next. Especially, there’s nothing special — or magical — about January 1st of any given year.
And yet, a large portion of humanity assigns a special status to the first day of the year in the form of New Year’s resolutions. Mind you, it’s not always January 1st as some human cultures track years differently than others. Regardless, the practice of affirming this or that goal at the beginning of an arbitrary milestone is widespread.
As usual with things that make little sense to me, the tradition has its roots in religion. Apparently, gods are very insecure and need constant reassurance we — the portion of humanity committed to this or that individual god — will not forget them. Puny insecure gods that they should need our worship and affirmation!
While the practice of reassuring gods is still a part of the resolution process for some, many have drifted toward resolutions aimed at self-improvement.
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Success rates for New Year’s resolutions are dismal (12% or so) and I think I know why.
My hypothesis — based on observations spanning many decades and some personal experience — is that nothing actually happens at the stroke of midnight signifying the change from one year to the next.
Sure, we “make up our mind” to focus on “being better”, be that measured by lower body mass, improved personalities, or increased commitment to work or loved ones.
Unfortunately, having made up our minds and taken an oath to follow the path of resolution success, we are still the same persons. The second-hand counts down, somewhere a ball drops, and . . . and . . . nothing; we undergo no magical transformation.
I contend that if one had it within them to make a change “for the better”, they would have already done it.
Think about it . . . say it’s November 12 of any given year; this is the mental conversation that must go on if one is willing to accept the idea of New Year’s resolutions.
“Gee, I’ve been a real dick to my family and friends pretty much most of my life.”
“Well, what do I plan to do about it?”
“Well, I could resolve to change, to be kind to my family; respectful, even.”
“What about friends?”
“Damn! . . . do I really have to? . . . Yeah, I probably should. Alright, I’ll treat them with respect and put them ahead of my own needs; in other words, I will be a true friend.”
“Wow . . . that sounds great. Noble, even. I feel good about this; let’s do it!”
“Whoa, there, Nelly! Let’s not rush into this! I tell you what; how about I continue to act like the jerk until, um, say the end of the year? That way, I can get a few more good insults in and maybe even alienate a few of my friends and family so that being good won’t be as much of a burden come the new year.”
” . . . er . . . OK, but come the New Year, a better me, right?”
“You betcha! Meanwhile, I’ll go make someone feel bad about themselves. While I’m at it, let me pack a few pounds so that it will be easier to lose weight come the new year!”
Really, is the thinking here that people are oblivious to all their problems until the stroke of midnight, at which time they have an epiphany and realize things like that they have been mean to others, they are not in shape, they are lazy, they are failures in both their personal and professional lives? Are we to assume that along with that epiphany they suddenly gain the fortitude to change?
I suppose it could happen . . . and I suppose I will one day be six-foot tall and sport a full head of hair to go along with my Olympic athlete’s physique.
I think resolutions are nothing more than a momentary feel-good device operating on the illusion of bettering oneself.
I suppose that based on the sheer number of people there may be some whose decision for self-improvement — an honest decision to self-improve — might coincide with the New Year, but the odds are not good . . . 12%, I hear.
Besides, most resolutions follow the consumption of alcohol. Through the years, I’ve learned that words spoken by people under the influence of alcohol carry little to no weight.
As one might surmise from this, no new year’s resolutions for me. I’ll continue on my personal path, be who I am, do what I do and if I should see the need to change said path, I will do so irrespective of the time of year.
Ironically, my one likely New Year’s resolution is to have no New Year’s resolutions . . . it’s a paradox, alright. A bit like that of time travel.
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.
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