If you are reading this, you too have survived last year and now are living in a new year! If you participate in the media in any form, from reading newspapers to watching tv, you have become aware of a flood of statistics. There are countless stories about last year. I have become aware of the ten most brilliant-this and the ten dumbest-that. As one who watches sports, I have watched the most amazing-this and the most disappointing-that. Already coaches are losing jobs because of their involvement in some kind of “disappointing-that.” As I write this, two professional football coaches have been fired. I can’t imagine what they will do without their million dollar salaries! As an assistant coach next year, they may have to scrape by with half that!
The other annual fascination of mine as last year gives way to a new year is the making of resolutions. Two staples of the new year are greeting everyone you meet with the phrase, “Happy New Year!” The other staple is making new year resolutions. Now I am certainly not against happy new years. I hope your new year is happy and I hope you hope my new year is happy. I can’t image anyone saying, “Oh no, I’m holding out for a sad new year!” Indeed, give me happiness.
Of course, the problem with wishing someone a “Happy New Year” is half the time that person does not even know what would make him or her happy! My suspicion is much of the stuff we think would make us happy, really would fade if we actually had that. Money is the obvious example. I, too, would be willing to coach a professional football team for a million dollars. I am assuming a million dollars will make me happy. It is a great deal more money than I make and it is more than I have. And since the American way is to assume more is better and better will make me happy, then it follows if I can have more money, I will be happy.
Sadly, this take on happiness simply is not true. Study after study concludes that money does not guarantee happiness. Of course, poverty is no picnic. But if people have enough money, then generally more money does not enhance happiness. So, if more money is not likely to make me happy, what will? Sometimes, I really don’t know. But then, my ultimate goal in life is not happiness. My ultimate goal is a meaningful life. That is what I want to give attention this year.
That leads me to the other issue: new year’s resolutions. By now people have made their resolutions. They probably did not put it in legalese terms like, “be ye resolved.” But they were resolved. Normally the number one resolution in America is to lose weight. Some resolve to quit smoking, to start exercising, etc. These are all commendable and they might even lead to a happy new year.
But I never make new year’s resolutions. Be ye resolved? No! I am not perfect, so there is room for resolving, if I wanted to do so. I am not the strongest-willed guy in the world---probably not even in my small town---but that is not why I don’t make new year’s resolutions. I don’t make new year’s resolutions because to do so is to have it backwards. It does not stand much of a chance of succeeding. Let me explain.
The key is to notice the sequence: new year’s resolution. In effect, that sequence says, “it is a new year; I better be resolved. So what do I resolve?” And then I choose something. However, chances are my heart is not in it. I did not decide to be resolved. I decided that because it is new year’s, I better be resolved. After all, after being wished a “Happy New Year,” people will ask me about my new year’s resolutions! I better have at least one!
I read some British psychologist who said 88% of the resolutions fail. I have no clue whether it is true, but it is believable to me. So what is my alternative? Again, the sequence is key.
If and when I resolve something, then I can begin to have a “new year.” But I only get that “new year” one day at a time. For example, let’s say in another week I resolve to begin praying every day. Until I actually pray, that “resolution” is nothing more than an idea, a hope, an intention….but nothing has happened.
However, if I can pray today, my “new year” has begun. The calendar won’t flip, but my new year of praying has begun. My old year of not praying is over. But if my resolution of the new year to pray daily does not happen day 2 and day 3, then my “new year” lasted exactly one day!