New Year Divisions - Observations on Attitudes Toward Change.

by Sarah Myles

***This post represents a broad generalisation of observations, based on my personal social media feeds over the New Year period***

During the New Year period, my social media feeds seemed to be split between those inclined toward statements of optimism, and those more pessimistic. The people announcing their New Year resolutions, and the people stating that those people are somehow foolish and deluded because resolutions are pointless.

The first group get caught up in the sense of occasion - the end of the year prompting some reflection, self-assessment and consequently some determination to improve some aspect of life in some way, be it to exercise more, eat better, try new things, or change unhealthy behaviours. This annual stock-take can serve to bolster flagging willpower, and fortify attitudes toward achieving our goals. But, looking at deeper motivations, this is perhaps an exercise in control – an entirely natural attempt to feel like you are in the driver's seat of your own existence in a chaotic world. “I know what needs to change, and I know how to achieve it”. It may also be considered a treacherous endeavour, placing additional pressure on ourselves to meet our own exacting standards. There is a chance we are setting ourselves up to fail, which could ultimately lead to negative feelings about ourselves. Why would we set ourselves up for a situation that could create additional tension in our lives?

The second group are 'bah-humbugs', and often argue that the first group partake in tradition simply because society dictates it. This second group think the first group are entirely predictable and pour derision on the idea of a 'new year, new start'. These are people that don't believe change can happen just because the date is different. "I'll wake up tomorrow morning, just like the day before, and everything will be just the same and nothing will change. I'll just continue as before, because that's the way it is." It's just another day. Some people are pessimistic by nature, of course, but looking at deeper motivations here, there's also comfort to be found in old patterns and behaviours which, even if unhealthy, are known commodities. Change is scary, and if an individual is already in a vulnerable position, or fragile state, it can understandably be too much to consider. For me, when I read or hear someone actually angered by the concept of New Year resolutions, it makes me suspect that individual may be protesting too much. When introspection is uncomfortable, it is often when it is needed the most.

I am firmly and unapologetically in the first group. I don't make lists of resolutions, but I reflect upon the 12 months gone and consider what I would like to achieve in the coming 12. Sometimes I achieve them, sometimes I don’t, but on average, I’m on an upwards trend. I count down to midnight, and I get choked up during the firework display. Why? Because I'm an optimist, and I believe that individuals have the ability within themselves to make things happen. On this point I agree with the second group – if change is made by us, it can happen anytime we want it to. So why make such a fuss about one particular day? What makes the 1st January stand out? Well, it's a mark in time that symbolises the completion of another orbit round the sun, and it’s as a good a day as any. In a modern society, where we all run around like hamsters in a ball, getting to this appointment, organising that activity, and filling our days with endless tasks and bureaucracy, the New Year period is a lull for most people. That odd few days between Christmas and work or school when everything slows down, there are less distractions, and we have a moment to just breathe. Why not use that time for healthy reflection?

I don't dismiss the sentiments of the second group - those attitudes are just as valid as my own (although the occasional judgemental expression of them can be jarring at times). And of course, this post represents a broad generalisation of attitudes toward the New Year period based on observations from my social media feeds – there will be many that fall into neither of these groups. But what's the key point here?

Group two are quite right. New Year's Day IS just another day, if that's what you allow it to be. Change, or the lack thereof, is the responsibility of the individual, and is determined by choice. Big, or small. Earth-shattering or seemingly inconsequential - they all count. There are always circumstances to be taken into consideration, but the choices are there to be made nonetheless. It’s taken me years to accept that, and upon reflection, I had a good 2012.

I cannot wait to see what I’ll have made happen by the end of 2013.

A happy, healthy New Year to all. smiley

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