As we stand at the cusp of a new year, this is the time when we, as a civilization, do two things: look back to take stock of what has passed, and look ahead to express our hopes for what will come. Often the look-backs are in the form of ‘best-of’ lists, while the look-aheads are in the form of resolutions, which, by virtue of being called resolutions, really just give us permission to blow them off.
We don’t have a top 10 list for the year, but we do have a top 1 list, and that is this: We made it. All the way to the end. Yay, us!
We start the year with plans, goals, aims, hopes. Dreams. And a clean piece of paper on which we write our plans, goals, aims, hopes and dreams. Some of us fold that piece of paper and slide it into a book on our top shelf, next seen by the guy who pays fifty cents for it at the library sale.
Others of us tack it to the wall and ignore it, until it either falls behind the desk, or until we tack over top of it a cat meme we printed off of Facebook.
Most of the rest of us move it from one place to another to another, checking one or two of the easier things as completed, before it gets buried under magazines we’ll never read and junk mail we just don’t get around to tossing, despite one of the items on the list being, “Don’t let the junk mail accumulate.”
And then there are a very few of us who use this list as an imperative. We must do these things because we want to be better off at the end of the year than we were at the beginning. We don’t want to leave it to chance. We don’t want, at the end of the year, to be thankful that we simply made it.
Make no mistake, making it to the end of the year is a big thing. Lots of people don’t. But we’d like to make it on our terms. And to do that, we make concrete plans and goals and aims and hopes and dreams. We don’t say, ‘I want to be rich,’ or ‘I want to be healthier.’ We make a list of actions that, if we take them, will lead us, step by step to our goals. The reason most resolutions fail is that they’re not specific enough. A friend of ours likes to cite a James Taylor song as a way to live your life: ‘Shower the people you love, with love.’
Great sentiment, but not specific enough. In what ways can we ‘shower the people?’
‘I’m going to talk to one friend every day, just to say hi.’
‘I’m going to set aside a little money each week for date night.’
‘I’m going to send a hand written note for every birthday.’
These are doable, especially if we don’t try to start all of them at once. We just start with one. And if we do them, or things just like them, when next December rolls around, we will say more than, “I made it.” We’ll say, “I made it good.”