Crowds at the gym are starting to thin. Most people who make New Year’s resolutions quit in a matter of weeks. While I rarely set turn-of-year goals, I sometimes identify—and then forget—a focus for the coming year or a habit to leave behind. Can such short-lived annual practices serve any useful purpose?
I believe so.
Most of daily life, mine at least, is guided either by routine or by response to immediate events. That’s just as well; to decide each action minute by minute would be overwhelming. But once a year, whether at New Year’s or some other fixed date, I might do well to step back from the trees of every day for a longer view of the forest. How is it with my life? Which routines still serve me? What cries out for gratitude, or adjustment, or recommitment? Is it time to begin baby steps toward something new?
It hardly matters whether that long view leads me to make and keep a resolution. Even if I forget the specifics, pausing to look at the forest may shape how I perceive the trees for many months to come.
I'm a historian who writes novels and literary nonfiction. My home base is Madison, Wisconsin.