New Year, New You. With every New Year that rolls in, millions of people make resolutions based on what they think they should be doing rather than what they really want to be doing. As the old year ends, we promise ourselves that next year, we will be better, work less, exercise more, quit smoking, eat less, drink less, balance life, live life. And every year we fail miserably a few weeks or months into the resolution. Why? Because our resolutions are just wishes and expectations we set for ourselves; soft, furry, halfhearted decisions that reflect goals which don’t amount to anything except to say we are failures when we don’t reach them. Don’t misunderstand. Goals are good, but they detract from living life to the fullest and from being present in the here and now. We strive for improvement, even perfection, thinking that we will be happy and content if only we can achieve the often out-of-reach goals we set for ourselves. The problem is that as soon as we set ourselves a goal we’re saying that we are displeased with our situation, that we feel “less-than” and that we want more in our lives than we have right now. The very nature of goals make us look toward what’s next, never at what we have right now.
The “custom” of making resolutions is some 4000 years old. Ancient Babylonians are said to have been the first people to make New Year resolutions, though for them, the year began in mid-March when the fields were planted with crops. They celebrated for 12 days reaffirming their loyalty to the king and making promises to the gods to pay their debts and return objects they had borrowed. A similar practice in Rome occurred when Emperor Julius Caesar changed the calendar and proclaimed January as the start of the new year @ 46 BC. The Romans offered sacrifices and made promise of good behavior in the coming year to the two faced god Janus who inhabited doorways and arches. Janus symbolically had hindsight into the previous year and looked forward into the future. Early Christians, Methodists and Evangelical Protestants and others followed the practice with covenant renewal services or watch night services where people gathered in churches on New Year’s Eve or day, reading from scriptures, setting goals and praying.
Hence, the first day of the year became the traditional occasion for thinking about establishing our intentions for the New Year. During the first week we start with an initial burst of motivation, and while some of us are more committed than others, statistics show that of the 45% of people who make New Year resolutions, most (with the exception of 8% who follow through on them) have given up by Valentine’s Day. Then they spend the next 11 months feeling guilty about them until it is time to disappoint themselves again the following year. Resolutions. They’re just unsustainable clichés.
This year, instead of goals that reflect wishes, resolve to do something more fundamental, more central and more important to your overall development. Resolve to pray. Resolve to have confidence in yourself; confidence that comes from the spiritual realization and the humility that self-will and determination alone are not always enough to overcome shortcomings. Resolve to approach with humility the acknowledgment that there is a power beyond yourself that is all encompassing. Resolve to pray. If there is anything I’ve learned it is this: In prayer you have help. Make your spiritual growth and the nurturing of your faith the goals of the New Year. Keep the driving force towards any objective centered on prayer. Learn to go within with prayer with the all-encompassing Presence above, beneath, around and beyond, and most importantly, within you. Move away from cliché. Begin to make the greatest spiritual discovery of your life.
Instead of the usual hard-to-achieve wishes and dreams this New Year, why not resolve to live each precious day fully, humbly asking for help when you need it, generously offering assistance when you can give it? Instead of making New Year’s resolutions that are so cliché that lament the past, point out our failures or concentrate too much on the future, live each day fully with humble prayer.
Integrate this one simple addition to your New Year Resolution List and avoid being a cliché in 2016.
Make Prayer your New Year, New You Resolution.
Happy New 2016.