It’s the end of 2014 and everyone is lining up their new year’s resolutions. Everyone but me.
It’s not that I have anything against the idea of improvement, it’s just that time and experience has shown me that on the road to doing better, we look for shortcuts and have a tendency to get lost along the way. You meet that convincing fellow with the nice smile and a best selling book about how to get It Done and before you know it, your bank account is empty, you own more than one velour robe, and someone just handed you a cup of juice that smells like bitter almonds.
Formulaic self-help recipes and nefarious improving gurus aside, wanting to do better next time is an admirable trait. It’s just the continuing cycle of years isn’t really next time, is it? There’s no discernible difference between this Thursday and the Friday that follows it, other than the fact we’ve decided to measure the circle of our lives beginning somewhere in between. When the clock chimes twelve, you won’t be happier, smarter, thinner, or richer. you will simply continue to be. And then what happens?
That’s the only important question we really need to ask ourselves. Resolutions are like to-do lists: you make them then ignore them. And if your answer is to make a list, you’re missing the point.
Resolutions are the list of things you’d like to do, but know you’ll never get around to. Or worse, will get around to, but in the most haphazard, unintentional way that causes the complete opposite outcome intended. That’s called serendipity, and that’s as it should be.
Serendipity is when you go looking for a particular book on the shelf and find an even better one right next to it. It’s when you go out for a walk and decide to let your feet move you down a path you usually don’t take, just to see what’s at the end. It may be nothing, but it may be your old friend that you haven’t seen in a while.
Serendipity is not possible when following a to-do list full of resolutions you made months ago, half of which no longer make any sense (what does “eat more peanuts” even mean?).
If resolutions serve any purpose, it’s the same purpose disaster movies serve: they get you to think about all the ways the world won’t really end. That way, you can get on with living your life, taking things as they come, and moving forward in ways you never would have thought to put down on your list, but are better for you, and more fulfilling.
Case in point: I resolved years ago never to get married or have kids. I didn’t believe in marriage, didn’t want the burden of feeding, clothing, raising another human being in this crazy old word. See how well that resolution worked out for me?