Looking forward to a new, hopeful year

The start of a new year is a good time to look to the future in hope, but it seems like resolutions rarely stick. Maybe we're doing it wrong. Maybe we need to work on elimination and motivation first...

Looking forward to a new, hopeful year
Photo by Ian Schneider / Unsplash

The start of a new year is a good time to look to the future in hope. It's a line in the sand, where we think about where we fell short last year and where we want to change things in the coming year. But it seems like resolutions rarely stick.

Last year about this time, I had a plan drawn out on my whiteboard, with the books I was going to read, podcasts I wanted to listen to, time for prayer, exercise, etc. Scratch that, I didn't have specific times set aside for prayer and exercise, which might've helped (or maybe not).. just a note that I wanted to do them more.

I don't have a picture of it, but I can tell you that a few months later, nothing had changed on that board except the name of the current month. Now the same whiteboard has some doodles, an admonition that Santa's watching me πŸ‘€, and a challenge from my daughter to see how many days I can go before erasing everything, which kinda looks like a countdown to the rapture. Huh.

Thinking back, were my resolutions too grandiose? No way. I wasn't "resolving" to run an ultramarathon or climb Mt Everest, lol. No matter what I had on my list, I hadn't bothered to (1) think about my motivation and (2) remove things from my life to make room for them (we all have things to remove). There's never time for everything. If it were only a matter of choosing between good and bad things, it'd be easier, but there are so many good things out there!

My wife mentioned something the other day about resolutions in light of vocations. What do we want to do, to be better at our vocation(s) this upcoming year? Those are the lighthouses, guiding the rest of our efforts. For my part, does it make me a better (father, husband, Catholic, programmer) to learn the piano or read 10 books, for instance? Those are good things, but I've made decisions in my life that have set me on a certain course with certain priorities, and not all good things are the best things for my situation.

Image by Islam Hamdy

Once resolutions and priorities match up, I could see how a person could even double up on things.

  • I want exercise and my son likes hiking, so I could resolve to go on hikes with him.
  • I want to spend time on my faith life and with my family, so we could resolve to listen to a weekly podcast together on Sunday afternoons.
  • I want to write but not have it take time from other resolutions, so I could resolve to write less about whatever random shiny topic catches my eye, and more about the technology that's helping me (my family, friends, coworkers) achieve their goals.

Are you weighed down too, by all the failed resolutions that make you feel resolved to fail? Maybe the most sensible resolution for all of us should be to figure out which resolutions are truly worth making, and what needs to go to make room for them. And when it feels too overwhelming or hard to let some things go, I'll try to remember this quote from one of my favorite authors:

β€œProgress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity