Where you live, do people make New Year’s Resolutions?
I like them. I think they’re a pretty healthy addition to all the other year-end rituals of parties and gifts and food we have here.
It’s a pretty simple concept – each person looks at their lives at that moment and says “Okay, what changes do I resolve so that I’m a better person in this next year?”
Most of them tend to be just what you’d guess, “I’ll lose weight,” “I’ll get stronger,” “I’ll eat less sugar,” “I’ll read more books.” And as you can also guess, these tend to fall apart as the year goes on (though they do wonders for the financial accounts of gyms in January!).
Then some get more interesting. “I’m going to break up with my hyper-critical boyfriend,” “I’ll get my drivers license,” “I’ll get a new job.” What I like about these is that they’re one-off ideas. Keeping weight off for a year is possible but requires huge commitment, while quitting a relationship or taking a driving test can be done all at once.
But I’ve been thinking about a different difference between resolutions. Is the person focused on the past or the future?
We dogs live in the present about 99% of the time. From the most obedient German Shepherd to the most disobedient Poodle Mix (yes I’m looking at you, Ginger!). While most humans live in some sort of split between the past, present, and future. If I smell a piece of yummy cheese, I focus on it, with no thoughts of anything else. But I see all the time – someone sees a pretty girl and their brain just races, “Wow she’s beautiful. She reminds me of that girl I had that crush on when I was twelve. I wonder what she’d be like to marry.” They’ve gone from present to past to future in seconds!
And I find that most resolutions focus on the past. “I’ll drink less than I have lately,” “I’ll spend more time studying and less time on TicToc,” “I’ll be kinder to my mother.”
Now I’m all for self-improvement, and think that those past-focused resolutions are just fine. And I hope every one of you who makes them can keep at least most of them in 2022!
But I want to urge each of you to also make at least one New Year’s Resolution that has nothing to do with improving the past, and just points to the future. “I’m going to travel to Italy!” “I’m going to give a tenth of my money to the needy!” “I’m going to go on twenty dates, and I don’t care with whom!”
Do you see the difference? The past-centered ones are about regret, a feeling of being “not good enough.” But the future ones are about Hope. About what you Want. About what would make you Feel Good.
We have been through ENOUGH these past two years! And I see all these people out there who’ve been disappointed or crushed so much by this pandemic that they’ve stopped planning for hope. But that’s the only fun part about having your future-oriented brains! (If you don’t put some hopes into that future part, it’ll just fill up with fears and worries, won’t it?!).
So while we all hope that the virus will truly abate in a few months, see if you can start training your brain to hope bigger, too. But not just for something wonderful to happen to you (“I hope I win the lottery,” “I hope someone wonderful asks me out,” “I hope my son gives me a grandchild!”), but something for you to DO.
I can’t guarantee you’ll make it to Italy any more than I can that you’ll lose those inches around your waist. But I do know that focusing on hope is the best way to help it happen.
And that makes it so much easier for me to believe in my big hope right now – that every one of you has a joyous, healthy, successful, loving, and HAPPY New Year!