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“DOING NOTHING ACCOMPLISHES NOTHING, gains nothing, changes nothing, and wins nothing. You have to make a move,” says author Richelle Goodrich, and it’s true. But opting to make moves out of the ordinary carries it owns risk of failure. And then comes New Years and the renewing of the old tradition of making resolutions to make the coming year something more than the last.

Maybe surprisingly, the most common resolutions haven’t changed much in decades. Here were the top resolutions of 1947, according to a wide-ranging Gallup Poll:

  1. Improve my disposition, be more understanding, control my temper
  2. Improve my character, live a better life
  3. Stop smoking, smoke less
  4. Save more money
  5. Stop drinking, drink less
  6. Be more religious, go to church oftener
  7. Be more efficient, do a better job
  8. Take better care of my health
  9. Take greater part in home life
  10. Lose (or gain) weight

Our population isn’t as outwardly religious as we used to be, but, still, these resolutions easily carry over to the modern era. Somehow our greatest goals at such times reflect our growing inner frustrations, those things that have a habit of undoing us each and every year. At times this reality frequently results in people abandoning the yearly practice altogether.

We shouldn’t, because they say something about us, namely that, although we may not succeed, we are still people who try to attain ideals, believe in goals, even if it takes a lifetime. Just saying that we won’t quit wrestling for our better selves or a better world perhaps says more than if we attain such things or not.

It’s time to stop being so pessimistic about so many things, simply because such an outlook defeats our very best intentions at every turn. All too often we permit those things outside of us to breed critical natures within, to be so concentrated in our voice so as to silence the voices of others necessary for our journey. It sometimes takes a lifetime to learn that we can more readily change our circumstances and our world by maintaining at attitude of optimism, being kinder, despite our difficult trials, than to gradually become jaded in our outlook. The reason for this isn’t rocket science – people work better with those who keep a positive and constructive attitude, thereby opening up the possibility for broader change. Being pessimistic results in isolation and the inability to find others to forge new paths forward.

The need to build our own moments is absolutely vital if we are to make our resolutions count. The secret to attaining them relies more on our ability to build our own story, our own plot, within ourselves than in merely waiting for circumstances to change. And how we build that narrative depends on the words we select. If they are merely critical, self-obsessed, jaundiced, or insensitive, then we will be forever trapped in Chapter One of our tale. As with any great novel, the future depends on the inner ability within the protagonist to persuade and shape her or his future.

Yet repeated failure to bring about the change we seek carries within it the danger of growing discouraged and eventually falling back into despair. New Years resolutions are there to remind us that we are still worth the effort, even if our outside world is refusing stubbornly to move in conjunction with our wishes.

One of the sad aspects about getting older is that we can eventually just give up altogether. It is then that transformation occurs that we may fail to notice. We can move from merely being critical to becoming afraid to try anything. G. K. Chesterton talked about this risk decades ago:

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new backbone, new ears to listen. Unless we made particular New Year resolutions, we would make no resolutions. Unless we start afresh about things, we will certainly do nothing effective.”

We can eventually reach the condition where we grow fearful to trying anything because we don’t know what it will entail. Change is hard for anyone, especially the kind of change that takes years. But if we don’t attempt it, then change hurries past us at an ever-increasing pace and we are left in our own jaded outlook and sense of isolation.

This is our year to try again, to begin change from the inside-out rather than the other way around. This is our story, and it commences with a main character who learns to take on all circumstances in an effort to eventually taken on enough strength and wisdom to change the world. To accomplish it we are always called upon to begin again, only with a broader understanding and a more compassionate heart. This is the privilege of New Years – another chance at empowering our story until new life breaks through and we can create a new future – not to go back to the start, but to continue the journey of nobility. Happy New Year.