Resolutions, or the Scale of Change

A recurring moment of reflection (in a process of reinvention) by greekadman

"A recurring moment of reflection (in a process of reinvention)" by greekadman

The new year means it’s time for resolutions. What is it about the turn of the calendar? It’s really an odd time of year to start over. We resolve to be active just when the landscape is grayest and our bodies beg for cocoons and early bedtimes. We’re tired from the holidays, and we’re heading into a looong stretch of overcast Mondays.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to start fresh in the spring, like everything else? These days, the most plants do is conserve; nothing grows in January.

But maybe the forced indoorsiness of it all, plus the long road to green, are exactly what make resolutions work. When you’re stuck inside, you have time to do good thinking. And that long, cold road is best traversed with rejuvenation and a fresh eye.

My suburban friends hated the last leg of their drive back to school–the flattest, the grayest, the slowest–but that leg was my whole drive, and I loved the muted fields and the bitsy farms that looked like model railroad scenes. Maybe that’s how this last flat of winter is. At the end of your trip, it’s drudgery, but start fresh and it takes on new meaning.

So what do we change on the hip-hip-new year holiday–what do we come at with a new start? Some are physical patterns we’ve been bad at keeping up (exercise 52 times a day, eat broccoli for every meal, read everything) while others are the big things we’ve avoided because they’re intimidating (find your calling, save the world).

Those big questions ask what we want our lives to be, while the patterns help us get there. Either way, most resolutions boil down to this one thing: finding the momentum to live as we feel we ought.

You could say that setting high, concrete expectations is artificial or unrealistic, and you’d be right if you measured worth only by your ability to meet them. Or you could say self-assessment should be ongoing, not just once a year when it’s cute, which is also true.

But honestly, humans get lazy and distracted, and we generally respond well to structure. So, as I see it, an occasional reminder to take stock and set goals is a good thing.

If the calendar doesn’t do it for you, go by the seasons, the school year, the church year, the fiscal year, sports–it doesn’t really matter. The resolve itself, and where it comes from, is most important. Use it as a reminder, even a fleeting reminder, that life on this earth is no less than ripe, and that we’re probably all capable of learning and offering more than we do.


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