Ah, New Year’s. With Santa’s footprints still fresh in the snow, we start making demands on another magical being: Our future selves. Diet! Lose weight! Exercise! Quit smoking! Quit Nail-biting! Quit watching TV! Quit slouching! We make veritable laundry lists of goals for next year, but very little in the way of strategies to achieve them. A British Mental Health charity called “Mind” even posits that New Year’s resolutions are bad for you, as your failure to live up to them simply magnifies your human foibles and inadequacies. It’s enough to make you swear off the whole resolution thing all together.
Then again, that would be jumping from one extreme to another. Setting goals and achieving them is the ultimate expression of free will. Sharing these goals one day out of the year brings people together and allows us to enlist help in making them a reality. Still, it’s easy to go crazy with them. I, for one, would like to write a novel, cook french cuisine, speak Japanese, Korean, and Mandarin, run a Marathon, learn to draw, Hack windows vista, and complete an open source video game project. I’m pretty sure most of that is not going to happen next year (I am, however, going to Japan in March).
I asked my wife Sara what her resolutions were and she gave me an interesting answer. She has one resolution, and that is to paint her nails more in 2009. I was a little puzzled, since her work rarely leaves her time for such high maintenance activities. She told me that was the whole point. Sara likes having painted nails because they make her feel more stylish and confident. Painting her nails also forces her to relax, as she needs to wait and do nothing while the nail polish dries. Painting nails seems like such a small goal, but achieving it gives her benefits well outside her pretty fingers.
I decided to follow suit and pick one and only one resolution. In 2009, I will entertain at my house more. I hope to have people over at least once a month, or 12 times this year. When Sara and I got married last year, we got gifts of fine china, linens, and kitchen gadgets, like most couples. This Christmas Sara’s sister and her fiancee got us Rock Band for the Nintendo Wii. Our basement suite is loaded for bear when it comes to entertaining guests, so why shouldn’t we take advantage of it? It’ll give me motivation to keep the house clean, as well as work on the art of interesting conversation. What’s more, I will spend less time messing with google maps trying to find people’s homes.
New Year’s Resolutions don’t have to be these grand achievements of self-control. Like the day they’re named for, they’re a way to mark change and progression in our lives. When we make resolutions and keep them, they remind us that life is fluid and dynamic, and change is one of the ways to make it truly worth living.