Timeless New Year Advice
By Brenda Black
You've heard them for decades, the New Year's greetings, conjectures and predictable resolutions. They slide easily off the tongue but are evasive in practice. What compels us, then, time and again to venture such hopeless proclamations? Why do we set ourselves up for failure with public announcements doomed from the outset? The answer is good intentions.
Good intentions are dead in the water if we don't intentionally carry out a plan of action. The first step is to select something worth doing rather than the same old New Year song and dance. Here are a few suggestions from old and new, tried and true wise men and women for 2011 goals that have great potential of actually being achieved simply because they are worth it.
“Resolve to make at least one person happy every day,” says Sydney Smith. The advice of this English writer and Anglican cleric of the 1800's is even more relevant for the 21st Century. He calculates the simple act to have great and lasting impact. “...in ten years you may have made three thousand, six hundred and fifty persons happy, or brightened a small town by your contribution to the fund of general enjoyment.” I can do that! How about you?
Benjamin Franklin offered up this sage counsel: “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.” Ladies, that doesn't mean out with the old and in with the new when it comes to husbands! Bespectacled Ben offered quite serious and profound instruction. Yet when the new year rolls 'round we tend to take inventory of our weaknesses, then end up coddling rather than annihilating them. We ignore our neighbors instead of getting to know them. Often the better man or woman that's been waiting to rise to the occasion is still buried beneath old habits and stubbornness. I can do better! How about you?
And now from a contemporary, Ellen Goodman, an American journalist and Pulitzer prize winner for Distinguished Commentary. She suggests a new approach to this age-old annual dilemma. “We spend January 1 walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives, not looking for flaws, but for potential.”
It is there, you know. Something good, something noble, something worthwhile that contributes to society. In every human heart lies the great possibilities to head in a positive direction rather than wallow in the negative. Walk through the rooms. Look for your strengths, open your eyes and see the value of your life and the purpose for which you've been designed, destined and delivered. Then bring it! Make someone happy. Live at peace with your neighbors.
And be the best you – nobody can do it better.
In 2011, our resolutions need not die by January second. If determination is not fuel enough to help you reach your goals, how about this warning from Albert Einstein, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” One of the most influential scientists ever in history also offered this brilliant advice: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow.”
One last piece of timeless wisdom for all ages comes from a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9)