The holiday season is always an uplifting one. There is so much going on, lots of things to do, traditions to uphold, food to prepare. Because of my background, celebrations in my family start on December 19th – St. Nicholas Day – and continue on through Christmas and New Year’s, and onwards to Orthodox Christmas on January 7th and the old-calendar New Year on January 14th. We regularly celebrate all of these just because it allows us to celebrate more. Why not?
In the middle of all this festivity, with the arrival of the New Year, we are always tempted to create some sort of finality to the year being left behind. To draw a line, and to say, “here is how next year will be different.” We often make resolutions, try to better our selves and our lives for the time going forward. But while I’m all for self improvement, I feel that the practice of a too-specific check list puts a downer on the holidays if we hold ourselves up to it just because we feel like we’re not doing enough.
In the past few years I’ve been doing things a little differently – here is my set of suggested resolutions that will stick with you throughout the year.
1. Acknowledge the year you’re leaving behind.
Think about it, you did some great things this year. On numerous occasions, you were strong, brave, honest, hard working, curious, articulate, accomplished, visionary, open, intelligent, tactful, loving, or any other of the many wonderful characteristics we all display as humans. Against odds and with no trumpets to celebrate your actions. I think taking the time to thank yourself for getting you through this year is important and very underrated.
2. Resolve to do things slowly.
We are, and always will be, under pressure to move. At work and at home. Unfortunately, also in leisure. There is little time we get to ourselves, so naturally, when it arrives we want to cram every leisurely activity into that time, thereby defeating the purpose. I’ll be trying to slow down this year. By reading slowly (nobody’s counting how many books we read in a year), paying more attention (doing a jigsaw puzzle of a painting you love will do wonders for your interpretation of it), and doing things that will take more time but give you more pleasure (go back to handwritten notes, at least sometimes). Resolve to enjoy the world you live in.
3. Resolve to read something thought provoking on a regular basis.
While we hurry through every day, we miss opportunities to learn and become better informed. Committing to reading some small amount of interesting and informative material will not hurt. It can be as easy as a subscription to a good magazine; if it arrives in your mailbox, you might just flip through it. Or take the time to look through a website like brain pickings. It feels like browsing the internet but really you’re made to wonder about great thinkers and good books (sneaky!). In hand with Point #2, this will make you slow down and think about the world you live in.
4. Resolve to prioritize actively.
Many times we have no choice but to be reactive to our circumstances; there are always fires to put out. These will never disappear, but during other times we might try to actively prioritize what’s important. If this year your work is your primary focus, put in extra time at the office (and don’t think twice about it if that’s what you have to do). If you need to focus on yourself and your well being, spend more time at home (and don’t think twice about it, either). Same goes for family, health, and just about any of the other aspects of daily life – figure out what is the issue that you really need to focus on and dedicate yourself to it. Figure out a second and third most important issue as well, and then you have a framework to spend your time in a way that will make you feel accomplished and right at the end of the year we’re just starting now.
At the end, I believe in resolving to live slowly, to be curious, and to have confidence in your approach to life. And after another year goes by, I believe in looking back and being proud of what you managed to do.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!