Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?


New year, new resolutions. That’s, I suppose, a common way marking the change of year. It doesn’t really matter if we break them later on. The making of resolutions itself is a good thing. It’s a reflective action upon things we think we need to change in and about ourselves. It’s certainly one of the most appropriate things to do to mark the change in numbers that the new year brings. Change begets change, change requires change, change demands change, change reflects change, and so on and so forth. After all there is nothing constant in this world but change itself. Those who don’t change, die.

Setting up goals to reach makes us feel good about ourselves. It creates hopes. And hopes are what moves us forward. In life, the finish line is always a step ahead, always barely within the reach of our arms, even if every now and then we feel that we have reached what we set out to reach. The finish line is always an illusion, a mirage of deferred dreams that ends only when life ends. That’s because we don’t live in a vacuum. The space-time continuum we live in is in a constant motion — expanding its borders, making and remaking itself. Situations change, conditions change, and we are changing in tow; we change and make situations and conditions change. It’s like a dance performed in tandem. One can’t stop without tripping the other. As the music goes on, so do we.

Resolutions mark the beginning, although — like time itself — we never know what and where it exactly is. It’s just a point we conveniently invent (much like the clock, I suppose) so that we know how to name it, to understand it. We need the beginning just like we need the end — the goal, the finish line — so that we can measure ourselves, our steps, our ‘progress’; so that we don’t get lost in the uncertainties of the thing we call life and the universe in which it evolves.

But the end of resolutions is not a definite finish line. It’s always a stepping stone towards a deferred dream (or dreams?), the ideal life that exists only in our minds. So, should we worry or feel disappointed and deflated if we somehow fail to realise some of them?

Perhaps we should. Perhaps we should not. Some stepping stones are essential, some are not. Our well being is not solely determined by the stones we step before jumping onto another. The way we feel about them also plays a part. And then also the way we perceive what a good life should be. A sense of direction and moving towards the direction that we believe we should be aiming at are, I think, more important than the stones we are stepping onto in themselves. After all, we may need to make some strategic detours every now and then. Some stones may be too slippery or shaky to step onto; some are too far away in between for our jump to make it safely … The only reason that should not be the reason is probably our reluctance to move, to make the step, to change. Standing still or running in place is not an option in a constantly changing milieu that life is.

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Eki Akhwan, 2 January 2015

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