I’m not big into New Year’s Resolutions.
I know, lots of people say that, but I actually mean it. I don’t deliberately make promises — to myself or others — that I can’t keep.
That being said, there’s no reason why we can’t pursue improving ourselves — all through the year — and if an arbitrary date spurs us into trying to make positive changes in our lives, then Happy New Year, everyone.
The key thing about successfully making changes, however, is reality, something distinctly missing from our brains after four weeks of too much chocolate, alcohol, drearily depressing office parties and too little exercise, sleep, and time with a good book. Too often, when we set our goals, we set up unrealistic ones — not because they’re too big, but because achieving them is beyond our control.
Like this favorite:
“I’m going to lose ten pounds.”
By eating better? By exercising more? Even if you succeed at this, you may or may not lose ten pounds, because what you drop in fat you may gain in muscle. Ultimately, you cannot control whether you lose those ten pounds, but you can control what you do in your plan to get there: you can eat better. You can exercise more. And by doing so, you may lose ten pounds.
So let’s put this into the life of the artist, (who may, or may not, incidentally, want to lose ten pounds):
“I’m going to improve my sales this year!”
By advertising more? By participating in more shows? By attending every artist’s reception in a 35-mile radius and hobnobbing with the gallery staff (easy on the truffles and cookies, by the way, or you may gain ten pounds)?
These latter three are actions that you can control, and they may or may not result in increased sales, which you ultimately can’t control.
I think our fascination with New Year’s resolutions arises from a sense of discontent with where we are, and the perception (accurate sometimes, inaccurate others) that our dissatisfaction with our lot stems from some lack, some failure on our part. So, at the end of an old year and the beginning of a next, we list out all the things we want to change so that, by this time next year, we’ll be stronger, better, faster, richer.
But improving ourselves is a lifelong process, and the ultimate gain in who we are is the result of deepseated changes at the core of our being: it’s not that we’re thinner, or more popular, or wealthier, or the possessor of two thousand Facebook followers, it’s that we’re kinder and more patient, smiling more and frowning less, thanking the person who bags our groceries, offering the benefit of the doubt to the idiot who just cut us off in traffic, listening to a child’s loooooooooonnnnnnnng convoluted story of last night’s dream when we really want to check our e-mail.
Those slow, deepseated changes — which arise through little decisions we make as we move through the day — through time transform us into different, better people who approach our art each day in a different, better way.
The changes may or may not result in better sales and a slimmer physique, but better sales and a slimmer physique, regardless of what we think, do not make us happier people. Being better people, deeper, more genuine people who are solid to the core, is a solid step toward finding what we’re looking for.
Happy New Year, Everyone!