Here we are again – and all too quickly it seems – stepping hopefully and resolutely into the unknown of another new year. And not just any old year this time, but the start of a new decade and that shift of the calendar clock that always leaves us bewildered at the speed of the ten years we are leaving behind. But is it just me or does the fact that we have entered a new decade seem a bit muted this year, slightly forgotten, without so much of the familiar fanfare that usually accompanies moving from one generation into another?
Perhaps it’s because in many ways 2019 was such a very difficult and unsettled year right across the globe. Writing for the Telegraph at the weekend, Julie Burchill succinctly termed the last decade as the Troubled Teens. And she’s spot on. The last ten years have somehow seemed so much more uncomfortable and unpredictable than previous recent decades. Of course we are glad to wave these years out, but the difference going into this New Year is that there will be a backward glance because, if we’re honest, we’re all still a little too nervous to wholly embrace a certainty that, for the Twenties, things are going to be better.
But still – a new year is about reflection, looking forward, resolutions and optimism. And we need this optimism, even though we tend to sit back and take stock and mostly we don’t quite pass muster. We seem not to look at what we have achieved over the last 365 days we’re toasting out but more at what we haven’t. And it’s usually all very much the same. Books left unread, diets abandoned, too many bottles in the recycling and exercise measured by an alarmingly low step count on the Apple watch. Of course there are some with more serious goals for the year ahead – career changes, relationship shifts or a more considered character deep clean – but mostly it’s about procrastination, exercise and being just that little bit more healthy.
It follows that resolutions are logical and they’re positive. We make a list and every single change we decide should be made in order to see the next year through in minty condition is put down, and it must all begin the moment the Hootenanny credits start rolling up and the party poppers have stopped popping. So why is it that on average 60% of us embrace this New Year ritual, yet in reality only about 8% manage to see the promises we have made to ourselves through the month, let alone the year.
Perhaps it’s because in many ways we do tend to begin the New Year assertively, with determination and resolve. It’s an annual clean sheet and we are fresh with hope. But as we go through the year the very nature of its unpredictability gets in the way and inevitably all of our good intentions begin to slide. By the time we reach the end of another year we’re probably so exasperated with a mantra of ‘this week, next week, next month, I will start’, it’s small wonder we are always going to use this ritual of resolutions for the New Year as a platform for the changes we want to make that have built up throughout the year.
Of course at any point throughout the year we could say – I will start today – but this age-old tradition does seem to indicate that we like a portentous starting point. Maybe instead of that lengthy list we seem to set down each January, we need to start by being a little kinder to ourselves (and there’s a resolution we never consider!) Forming new habits in place of old ones is hard. We need to stop setting the bar so high if we want to sit happily in that 8% who do achieve their goals as they go through the year. Just one aspiration for change, moving forward and however big or small, is doable. And let the resolution be one that we want to do, not something society or anyone else tells us we should be doing. In turn this gives us the confidence to move on to the next, and then the next, throughout the year, step by step.
So here we are in 2020 at the beginning of a new decade and I for one am determined to believe it can herald better times – together with a personal resolution thrown in along the way for good measure. And hope. Just seeing 2020 written down already looks good. Perfect vision. Matching, even numbers that straightaway seem to promote a sense of balance – something that every resolution we start to assemble as the end of each year approaches should be all about. So I am going into this decade with a resolution for balance in my life. For measured aspirations that are achievable and that will, hopefully, take me into 2021 with a much shorter list.