What is a new year? A new start that goes down in history, a mark of dates, and a symbol of passing time. But it isn’t the same for everyone around the world. Suppose if a new year is said to be a mark of time, an entity which itself is relative. Then, so is the festival that marks the beginning and end of a section of time we call a year. Put it fact-wise, people around the world celebrate this festival at different times for different regions. There are 26 different New Years celebrated around the world. This number is still aloof of all the 9 different New Years celebrated in India alone. So, if there is no absolute mark for the end of a year, then what is the fuss of New Year all about?
From 23:59 to 00:00, in these 60 seconds, we see our whole year flash before our eyes. Counting the happy moments, the achievements, the sufferings, and all in all a little hope kindles in our hearts to change things for the next year. Ticking and counting till the second, when the clock shows 00:00, we drop the ball. But does it signify anything? Is it worth the pressure of making new resolutions and feeling the guilt for our irresolution? If you are wondering the same, we’ll take some rather philosophical insights to try and answer the question in this article.
Brief History of New Year Resolutions
Taking a brief turn towards the past we can find in the pages of the history that it was Julius Caesar who established January 1st as the beginning of a new year. And, it was the ancient Babylonians who first thought of making New Year resolutions around 4000 years ago. However, at that time resolutions had close linkages with the belief of fulfilling god’s ultimatum or staying accountable to the kings.
Today, we have rather personal resolutions revolving around self-development. So, owing to the Babylonians we now have a checklist on the first page of our diary, or a sticker on our fridge, or regular reminders from our fitness apps. We form the lists in hopes of completing them by the end of the year. But over time we ignore it and lose hope in ourselves. Data shows that where only half the adults make NYR only 10% manage to keep them for more than a few months. And only 8% are hardly able to see it through to the end.
Two age-old Opposing perspectives
We all have our clashing ideologies about how amazing or overrated New Year’s resolutions are. We are not new to this. Over generations, it has been a long-fought debate with opposing beliefs. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) a well-known philosopher believed that New Year is the best festival to celebrate with family and loved ones. It is a festival where we allow ourselves the time and do things that we otherwise won’t do on any other occasion. This new beginning gives a positive outlook on life and an opportunity to self-reflect.
On the contrary, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) also a philosopher hated New Year. He was in complete opposition to the notion that man needed such breaks in time frames to reflect and determine goals. He mentioned in one of his works that history continues to unfold along the same fundamental unchanging line and us celebrating or not celebrating it is going to make no change in its flow. Why should external factors determine my pauses when I can choose a new start for myself?
Many of us indeed believe that it should be under our control when we want to set up goals and the timeframe we wish to achieve them in. We should understand that what lies at the core of all this is setting new challenges for ourselves. Challenges that direct us to the path we want to follow in the long run. That clear, if we make such rigid time frames for our resolutions, we can easily take them as a burden. And what follows is our ignorance of the cheerful bucket list we had made.
What New Year resolutions should be all about?
Generally, in their resolutions, people wish to work over some basic goals like exercising more often, eating healthier, saving more money, etc. What we seek deep down is ways to become happier, to find meaning in life, and to lead one that is healthy. But the actual goals we set matter to the process of seeing it to the end. There are various philosophies as to how we can maintain our inner spark for the goals we make.
Taking a closer look at the stoic philosophy shows us how to differentiate between things that are in our control and the things that aren’t. Things like our opinions, motivations, desires, and aversions are under our direct influence and we have full control over them. But, things like our body, property, reputation, and such aren’t necessarily in our complete control. We can only change the desire or our instant judgment of actions but the result is not completely our accountancy.
For instance, if we wish to exercise daily, we have full control over our motives. We can try our best in aligning our judgment of actions with the motive of fulfilling the task. But external factors such as the unaffordability of the gym, your family circumstances don’t allow you the time, or you faced a sudden severe injury. The achievement of such goals can be complete only if these factors align in favor of our motives. This though, cannot be guaranteed. So, we should rather focus on changing our motives and judgments rather than aiming for the result. People complete tasks best when they do it for their own sake. When we have emotionally invested our mind and soul into the process only then the outcomes cease to be important.
Is New Year really overrated?
We live in a world full of infinite perspectives. There are bound to be people with pessimistic sentiments over the celebration but that doesn’t make them different from others. The heart of celebrating festivals is to look at it as an opportunity to spend time with family, come together and make lasting memories. The countdown is just a mere moment of exhilarating joy that excites us for what lies ahead.
A new year can be any day of the month, or the week. Whenever you want to reflect on your choices and change things about your life. It’s not paramount to wait for the new year to come to set goals that we might hardly complete. New Year is in fact a day, not necessarily at the beginning of the year, for those who like to choose their own pauses. What the fuss is, is that we are in this together.
New Year- a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story?
Ultimately, we write it.
The choice is ours