January is a lesson in history, named for the ancient Roman god Janus, whose two faces looked backward and forward at the same time. We do that kind of looking ourselves, every New Year. But it’s not the same. We tend to push that old year away and focus full attention on what’s to come. Why not? The new year is a blank slate to scribble our impossible promises on: We will be kinder and more patient; we will work harder; we will eat less.
For us, resolutions are as much a part of entering the new year as the midnight kiss when the ball drops at Times Square. But often, they don’t last much longer! Immediately we begin celebrating with food and drink, and there’s one already broken before the new year is an hour old!
Why do we do this? When we look at things realistically, for most of us, one day is much the same as the one that came before it, or the one that will come after it. So, in theory at least, any day would be the right time to make resolutions of change and improvement. But making them on a holiday that marks the start of something really new has a sort of special appeal.
However, the best resolution of all remains: it is not to kid yourself with airy-fairy promises that will be impossible to keep.
Welcome the new year, but don’t expect it to change your life. Remember what those ancient Romans knew: Janus was their god of beginnings, but also of endings. If you know that a promise will be impossible to keep, don’t make it; that will spare you one inevitable unhappy ending and the guilt that goes with breaking a promise to yourself. Think of the new year as Janus did: a simple transition from one year to the next. Enjoy the dropping ball and the kiss that follows – and the year that follows them — without expecting miracles from yourself.