Thanks to the hopeful (or cynical) genius who invented the concept of New Year’s resolutions, the average gym derives the majority of its revenue from new memberships purchased in January. A January 2013 article in Forbes magazine suggested that, although more than one-third of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, “just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.”
There’s something attractive and energetic about the New Year. Our brains are hard-wired to notice things that are new or different. Back in the day (way back), the ability to notice what was new or different about one’s environment could save your life – you would be more likely to notice the approach of predators, or you would be more aware of new sources of food and other resources.
The down-side of over-focusing on novelty is a chronic “itchiness” for the next new thing.
- Cell phone companies understand this well – “get a new phone every two years!” (even though I haven’t yet figured out how to use the one I have now).
- Online dating sites understand this – “get a new romantic partner every two months!” (even though I haven’t yet figured out what to do with the one I have now).
Five-hundred-channel cable TV, streaming music and video, YouTube — the entire modern communications infrastructure is one big spider web designed to entrap the hapless novelty-oriented consumer.
So how can you plan for a New Year that will not just be new, but actually improved? What are one or two important tasks to which you can bring intentionality and focus in the New Year? Imagine what it will be like to take a giant step in at least one of these aspects of your life:
- Community – How can you be supported and nurtured by, and how can you serve within, a healthy community of like-minded people dedicated to caring for each other?
- Self-care – In what way can you take better care of yourself in this coming year — in your sleeping habits? Eating? Exercising? Regular medical, dental and vision check-ups?
- Work – What is one way to eliminate some chronic stress in your work-life, or make your daily routine more satisfying?
- Finances – How can you improve your savings program (short-term, big-ticket purchases, retirement)? What one expenditure can you cut out? For instance, one $4 cup of coffee a day times 5 days a week equals $1,000 a year.
- Relationships – Which one relationship would you most like to deepen during this next year? What resources or help will you need in order to achieve this?
- Tikkun olam (Hebrew for “repairing/renewing the world”) – What is one way you can help comfort, encourage and empower those who are disadvantaged, marginalized, dispossessed, excluded, rejected?
Will 2015 be a new and improved year for you? I encourage you to take some quiet time for yourself in the next few days to contemplate the possibilities of the new year stretched out before you. It would be my privilege to help you get off to a new and improved start this year. Happy New (and Improved) Year!