New Year, Same Problems

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The magic of the new year is upon us and so too is the desire to make resolutions to improve our own lives and the lives of those around us. Most people get big ideas and rush forward, only to meet resistance immediately. That resistance can often feel like a personal attack. New year, new me! Why is it so difficult?

It’s important for us to remember that a new year is not actually a new anything. Nothing has changed. I’m sorry if that makes you sad, but reality can be sad. The clock having struck midnight on December 31 is not a reset on the problems of the world. ‘New year, new you’ is not real.

It’s a rough smack in the face, but all hope is not lost. While we cannot simply start a new game and write over our save files, we can take the ‘fresh start’ mentality and apply it to many aspects of our lives. Our problems may be the same — both in our personal lives and in the world at large — but it is possible to use the new year or new semester as a time for rest and reflection. It was a deep breath that many needed, and need every year. Now, having taken a moment to gather our thoughts, we can push forward with renewed confidence. That resistance can then be transformed from an impenetrable barrier into a fence that can be vaulted over far more easily.

The problem with resolutions is that they are often vague to the point of impossibility.  In a survey conducted by Varo Money (a digital banking service in the US) in November of 2017, more than 40 per cent of those surveyed wanted to lose weight and get more fit in 2018, and more than 50 per cent wanted to save money. While those seem like great ideas for some people, they are not specific enough. Our goals for the world are similarly lofty. Mark Zuckerberg, the billionaire everyman at the head of Facebook, has ‘big picture’ goals for what is very likely the world’s number one news source. A report from Pew Research said that in August of 2017, 67 per cent of adults in the U.S. get their news primarily from social media, and Zuckerberg wants to clean that source up.

“The world feels anxious and divided, and Facebook has a lot of work to do — whether it’s protecting our community from abuse and hate, defending against interference by nation states, or making sure that time spent on Facebook is time well spent,” wrote Zuckerberg on his own Facebook page. “My personal challenge for 2018 is to focus on fixing these important issues. We won’t prevent all mistakes or abuse, but we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools. If we’re successful this year then we’ll end 2018 on a much better trajectory.”

The difference between us and Zuckerberg might seem to be resources, but in actuality it is a plan. How many of the people who want to save money this year know how much or have set themselves up a plan to do so? How many of the people who want to ‘fix’ the political climate have any idea how they’re going to go about it? Once that resistance is met, many people give up on their goals and go back to living their lives just as they did last year. The ‘new’ you quickly gives way to the same old you.

Make a plan. Make lists. Break things down into their base elements. Think about how to make your goals SMART — specific, measurable, achievable, rewarding, and time-bound. In 2017 a lot of us were overwhelmed by the never-ending onslaught of crap coming at us from all directions. We want this year to be better. Better how? The new year is not a time machine in which you can leap forward to a time when all of 2017’s drama is forgotten. It is instead an opportunity to take a deep breath, plan your attack and dive into the fray.

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