I don’t make resolutions to start the year. I can understand why people do—we all need a reboot now and then—but I take a different approach.
I look at the beginning of the year as a Christmas letter to myself. If you are not familiar with the tradition, many people write letters to friends and family at Christmas sharing highlights of their lives from the past year. I tend to look back at the year in reflection and take an inventory of the good and the bad. It reminds me of the many things I take for granted in life and the many blessings I have received. It also helps me set goals—although waiting for a symbolic date on the calendar to make a proclamation about improving yourself is wasteful. Never procrastinate on an act of kindness, a chance to learn, a moment to savor or an opportunity to grow.
2016 is gone now. We will never have another one. For me, there is a lot to remember about 2016 and a lot of gratitude to express.
Last year, I paid off some debt. There’s still a lot to go but progress is good. I read several good books, listened to some great music, and changed jobs. I also ate a lot of good food and enjoyed meals with several great friends. I was able to give a lot to charity. That is always a blessing even though it is a personal thing and I don’t like to share the details in public.
Like every year, bad things happened in the world. I have seen so many comments saying 2016 was the worst year ever. It wasn’t. Everything is a matter of perspective though.
Most of the negative comments I have heard came from people upset that their candidate did not win an election or because a celebrity passed away. People get passionate—too passionate—about politics and nostalgic about celebrities. However, these things very rarely have a personal impact on your lives—even if a political hate blog tells you the world is ending.
In the book of Jeremiah, Jews were captured and taken to live in a foreign country as exiles and slaves for as long as 70 years. Most would never see their homes again. That’s a bad day. A bad year. A tragedy. Having a politician who doesn’t care about you lose to another politician who doesn’t care about you is none of the above. In Jeremiah, the exiled Jews, from the kingdom of Judah, were told to live good lives, start businesses in captivity and prosper their captors.
It’s all about perspective.
In comparison, some experts say as many as 46 million people, in 176 nations, live in some form of slavery right now. For them, 2016 was a bad year and 2017 will be too unless they gain freedom. Most won’t. Their misfortune isn’t tied to a mythical date on a calendar. There is no do-over ahead of them, no resolution for personal improvement. They don’t have an option to open a business and make the best of their situation. There is only a desperate hope for survival. Some of them are right here in the United States.
They would love to have your problems instead of living in fear that they will be sold for sex or drugs or beaten to death in their sleep. Perspective.
Right now, there are children in Mexico living in garbage dumps and families in Venuezuela who cannot find food or work. Right now, there are women being beaten to death for wanting to drive a car in Saudi Arabia and other women in the middle east are having their genitals mutilated so they won’t enjoy sex. Right now in Africa, people are being sold into servitude because of their religion and others are dying from disease or losing family members in wars they don’t understand.
In the United States, people are seeking professional counseling and hiding indignantly in safe spaces because an election didn’t go their way. Voter turnout was at a 20 year low in 2016. People didn’t care enough to participate but are bothered by the results? Sometimes we take our freedoms for granted.
We put too much faith in idols. Your hope for a better tomorrow does not rest with a politician. A celebrity does not have all of the secrets to success in life either. Your world is not going to spin out of control because someone failed to say Merry Christmas to you at your local big box store.
2016 was filled with awful moments. 2017 will be too. Every day you wake up with some level of freedom to make a decision for yourself has potential. 2016 also held many blessings. We are not promised tomorrow and yesterday doesn’t have a reset button. There is only now. Find something, anything, you have to be thankful for and embrace it.
This year, I hope to do many things. I look forward to finishing a book, or two, I started writing. I look forward to spending more time with people I care about. I look forward to sharing a good meal with friends and greeting each day with gratitude.
I may not do all of the things I want to do. So, I am not going to pressure myself to make resolutions and unrealistic expectations. Let’s focus on gratitude.
I am grateful for friends, new and old, who shared their lives with me last year. May your 2017 be filled with hope.