Last week I started to think about what I wanted my New Year’s resolution to be for 2017. The more I thought about it, the more cynical and jaded I became. I thought about past resolutions to get skinnier or save more money or even to travel more and they started to seem a bit selfish and a lot trivial. Maybe its the collective distaste for 2016 or just being in a different place myself, but whatever it is, I just couldn’t bring myself to make another New Year’s resolution that was a present for myself under the guise of true self-improvement.
However, despite my totally bad attitude about resolutions this year, I still have reverence and optimism about the practice of setting goals for one’s self. I am a very goal oriented person. I make lists upon lists, daily, weekly, and last year this time I penned a very annoying list called “Bosch Family Goals-2016.” I am definitely pre-disposed to loving the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions. It is just the resolutions put into practice that I have been having a problem with.
I started to get curious about where the whole idea of New Year’s resolutions originated and what they were really meant to be so I googled it. I discovered an ancient history of the practice that gave me some hope and clarity about why we make them and how wonderful they can be. We humans have been making these sorts of New Year’s promises for thousands of years; from the Babylonians to the Romans. We have been taking the opportunity of the New Year to try to be better people since the beginning of time and that is very noble. Nowadays, only a determined and maybe more practical 8% of us actually follow through with our resolutions throughout the course of the year. Granted, the stakes aren’t nearly as high these days as compared to making a promise to a god that would strike you down if you failed. For us, the consequences are usually just pants that are still a bit too tight or a bank account that still has you playing the lottery.
To me, there seems to be a little something that has been lost in these New Year’s promises over the course of many, many years. The weight and depth of our promises seems to have lessened over time; probably when we learned that we weren’t going to be cursed for failure. But maybe we need to bring some of the weight back. Maybe we need to reevaluate what self-improvement really means. A New Year’s resolution is supposed to be the one big thing you want to work on in the next year. The one thing that you want to do or change in order to become a better person. I know, for me, when I think about what a good person is, skinny and rich don’t usually make the cut. It is great to be healthier, to feel good about yourself or to feel financially secure for your family. However, being a good person starts with being good to others. There are so many people in this world who could use some help, some inspiration, a reminder of kindness or a meal for that matter.
So this year I am going to make my New Year’s resolution to do a random act of kindness at least once per week. As charitable as that sounds, and maybe a bit overly pious, it is still a pretty selfish resolution. I know that by baking cookies for our neighbors, or taking food to the mission, or bringing coffee to the people at the UPS store (I love them!), not only will I be lifting their day but I will be improving myself in an innumerable way. I will be growing as a human and learning to be more selfless. I will be sharing this with Eliza and teaching her that being a good person starts with being good to those around you.
I still may throw in another less weighted resolution for good measure. Lord knows I need to save more money and I could always stand to be healthier, but my main resolution and the one that I hope that I follow through with the most, will be to purposefully do something for someone other than myself and my immediate family, even if it is only once a week.
Happy New Years! Here’s to a 2017 full of kindness, inclusion, fearlessness and love! MEB