January, the flawed month of resolution: why do we still indulge this habit of failed self-correction?January 4th, 2016 by Boisdale
The New Year has long been treated as an opportune moment in the year for each of us to press an internal reset button: â€˜out with the failures of last year,â€™ we proclaim, â€˜in with the new and improved meâ€™. January offers us a calendar-convenient juncture, if a somewhat arbitrary one, when we can do away with the mistakes of the past and forge for ourselves a fresh start.
However, the fact that we celebrate the New Year in January is of itself no reason to bind ourselves to the twin yokes of self-improvement and an implied sense of prior failure. The reality is that most of us know that while the intentions behind our newly-begun resolutions are good, they arenâ€™t likely to last.
Indeed, why exactly should January be the month of self-correction – of miserable diets and costly (and invariably doomed) gym memberships? Why our annual obsession with placing a disproportionate emotional and physical burden on these first 31 days? If anything, making January a month of resolutions is simply an admission of prior procrastination: itâ€™s the delayed enactment of a long-dreamed-of goal, one that you could have started last year/month/week, but which you didnâ€™t have the self-will to do.
Itâ€™s worth looking a little beneath the surface here, for the reasons why we actually celebrate the New Year in January and why we make resolutions. The month gets its name from the Ancient Roman deity Janus, the god of beginnings and transitions. His name derives from the Latin for doorway and January therefore serves as a kind of gateway between the old year and the New Year. The Romans would celebrate this time by making promises of improved moral conduct.
Which immediately raises the question: how were they behaving the rest of the year? We donâ€™t need to imagine too hard. Studies, surveys and anecdotal evidence have repeatedly shown that modern resolution-makers largely give up on their new goals before the mid-point of the year, and thereâ€™s no reason to suspect our ancestors were so much better than us. And therein lies the problem with an annual reset button: once youâ€™ve pressed it once you tend to keep on pressing it, in the hope youâ€™ll come good eventually. To give yourself a fighting chance read more here.
So what to do with these pesky New Yearâ€™s Resolutions? Perhaps, simply, when we try something new this year, we ought not to append the appellation â€œresolutionâ€ to it, a term that has been so undermined by New Year that it has come to mean itâ€™s very opposite. Is what youâ€™re undertaking worth it and, crucially, will you actually do it?
Author G. K. Chesterton, the epigrammatic English author of the early twentieth-century, observed this of our inability to reform in his essay â€œA Defence of Rash Vowsâ€: â€˜A modern man refrains from swearing to count the leaves on every third tree in Holland Walk, not because it is silly to do so (he does many sillier things), but because he has a profound conviction that before he got to the three hundred and seventy-ninth leaf on the first tree he would be excessively tied of the subject and want to go home to tea.â€™ In other words, without the self-restraint, donâ€™t make the resolution. Otherwise you might as well just go home to enjoy a cup of tea and some decadence.
Why not make your New Year resolution to visit us here at Boisdale and enjoy our wonderful atmosphere, fabulous dining and fine wines; the perfect way to start the New Year off with a flourish.