By Mark Eastburg, PhD
Working on a New Year’s resolution? You’re in good company. According to some studies almost half of us resolve to change something in our life beginning January 1. Some of the more common resolutions include losing weight, getting organized and quitting smoking.
It’s interesting to think about why January 1 is the date we focus on when we consider changing a habit or making a goal. Of course it’s the New Year. But we could make a decision to change anytime. Why is the New Year, January 1, the big day of change?
I suspect it has something to do with making a fresh start. The New Year offers a clean slate, second chance, a clean break with disappointment. The New Year gives us a chance to say, “I’m putting my past behind me, shedding what I don’t like about my life, embracing a new me. I’m going to go for it.”
This is a great impulse – the desire to move forward and grow – whether that growth is toward a healthier lifestyle, more care with spending habits, seeking a new career direction, or finding new friends. In fact one of the qualities of highly resilient people is the capacity to make realistic plans and take steps to carry them out. That’s what New Year’s resolutions are all about – making plans, and carrying them out.
The problem, as everyone knows, is that New Year’s resolutions so often fall by the wayside. If New Year’s resolutions were wildly successful, I think we would see big parties on December 31 with people celebrating the success of reaching the goal they set exactly a year before.
So are New Year’s resolutions challenging to fulfill? That’s OK. Instead of focusing on failed resolutions, maybe we should be paying attention to that wonderful deeper impulse to change. The “Big Annual Resolution” is fine as a fresh start. But there is something even better than a new year to change. It’s the opportunity to start fresh each day, the mercies and gift of life that is new every morning.
The real challenge is keeping the mental attitude that says, “Okay, I didn’t do so well in sticking to my plan yesterday. But I have a new chance today. Let’s try again.”
Repeat – every single day. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that New Year’s follows Christmas, a holiday symbolizing in part a fresh start for the world, the chance to be free of past failures and a new chance at life.
Go ahead; make a resolution this New Years. And give yourself the grace to make it again every morning if you must.
Mark Eastburg, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services since 2006, is a clinical psychologist who maintains a practice. He has worked at Pine Rest for over 25 years and has held a senior administrator position since 1997.