By Craig Funston
One of the embedded traditions of the Christmas season, just after the turkey(s) at the table and Christmas spirit(s), is that of New Year’s resolutions. You know, those promises to lose weight, spend less money on stupid toys, be nice to the jerks in your life, and smile more.
Coming from a sincere (and maybe even desperate) motive, most well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions last for usually for a week–two weeks at the most. It’s at that point that everything crashes, including one’s self-esteem—and we tend to cover up our guilt by, you guessed it, gaining weight, spending more, and actually being meaner to the very people we wanted to be nice to. And crying behind our smiles.
Not quite sure where this practice came from, but in the main, it’s a good one. I’m talking about the promises to be better, not the crashing and burning. Striving for realistic excellence in relationships, money, and lifestyle, is good, not bad.
Read that again: It involves the quest for “excellence,” something that is missing in most disciplines these days; and it likewise needs a heavy dose of “realism.” Highfalutin aspirations are impressive-sounding, but are dangerous emotional landmines. To carry that metaphor further, dashing recklessly through a field of unseen and unknown bombs may appear to be noble, but it can be a disaster.
One must be careful not to promise the moon, but end up only delivering moonbeams.
I have my own New Year’s resolutions. But because this is a public newspaper column and not a private diary, my comments must be somewhat muted, discreet, and vague. Don’t like those rules, as such, but they are rules of something once known as common sensibility and sensitivity, and that I like.
On a slightly different note, that’s why I hate reality television shows and newspaper tabloids: They exhibit petty, personal, and private affairs (pun mercilessly intended) that have no business being in the public arena. You might say what happens in the bedroom stays in the bedroom.
So my spin on New Year’s resolutions is simple: “Promises I mean to keep” could (and should?) also be made by the guy next door, the woman down the street, and, well, you (and me, too). If you don’t agree with me, then either I have read the culture wrong and we’re in much better shape than I think, or we’re all fooling ourselves.
At this point, if I got it wrong, I think it’s for the latter reason.
Losing weight and saving money are, of course, the standard resolutions. But I would rank them third and fourth. Character and relationships would be number one and two, respectively, in my opinion. (Notice how I soften my perspective with those helpful words “in my opinion”?)
Character is what you are when no one is looking; reputation is what you are when they are looking. Character is what you are when the lights are out; reputation is what you are when the lights are on. Character is an inner reality that expresses itself outwardly when it has a chance to; reputation has no inward basis.
What I need to do—and you do too, if you’re alive—is to work on what (and who) we really are, namely, our character. For example, don’t appear to not lie; just simply love the truth. Don’t simply avoid smut and vice; just love virtue. Pursuing the positive will not allow much room for the negative. Is it that simple? Hardly. But it’s a great start, a new beginning—a new year, if you will.
Good character then easily leads to healthy relationships. If I am transparent, honest, selfless, and such (all character traits), then these will impact my dealing with others. Good character, a personal quest, will always foster good relationships, an inter-personal goal.
My transparency, honesty, and selflessness are no-brainers when it comes to dealing with spouse, children, neighbours, and colleagues. Happier homes, better neighbourhoods, and productive workplaces would then follow. This is good, not bad; this is uplifting, not degrading.
Men and women of integrity matter; robust relationships at every level matter. Realistic excellence is the primary goal that I have set for myself, and I would like you to join me. Target an area in your soul where there is a need for some improvement, set a manageable goal to change it, chip away at it—then look for some rewarding results!
One place you’ll see it is in your renewed relationships. Then it truly will be a brand-new year for one and all.