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Aspirations for a New Year: A Time to Recalibrate

Garden Glow, Missouri Botanical Garden
Garden Glow, Missouri Botanical Garden (Photo by T.S. Bremer, 2017)

These final cold days of December tell me it is time for thinking about New Year Aspirations.  I have long been dissatisfied with the notion of “resolutions,” since I found that my resolve did not often endure beyond a couple of weeks. Instead, I prefer to think about intentions and aspirations for the coming months. The turning of the calendar to a new year offers a moment to reassess priorities, both personal and professional, and to be more deliberate about intended aspirations for change.

Certainly I aspire to all the noble values most often rehearsed on such occasions: gratitude, kindness, joy, acceptance. Such virtuous aspirations benefit my own life as well as the world at large. But are such noble pursuits realistic for New Year reflections?

Consistent habits

Like many people, my New Year aspirations often focus on priorities for daily routines that will make life more fulfilling and meaningful. Healthy eating habits, strenuous physical exercise, reading and writing every day all find a place in making the coming year better than the previous year. Consistency seems to be the key: the daily pursuit of better living and personal development makes a happy life.

Or does it?

Yes, the orderly life based on principles of healthy living and personal improvement have much to recommend, but so does spontaneity and serendipity. Despite all efforts to live a disciplined life, sometimes life has a way of asserting its better judgment on us.

Aspirations, resolutions, and things that must get done

Accepting life’s better judgment with all of its curveballs, frustrations, and unanticipated changes in course may be the most important aspiration for the new year. Regardless of how the months ahead may look from our current vantage, they likely will present a few surprises, some exciting and welcome and others frustrating and regrettable. It is, as the songster once sang, life and life only. So perhaps my only aspiration should be the noble virtue of acceptance.

On the other hand, I have a book manuscript due in exactly twelve months, and tackling that project feels more like a resolution than an aspiration. Focused work habits every day, progress every week, concentrated effort are the only way I know to get it done on schedule. So beginning now, I resolve to make the book my highest priority.

But finishing a manuscript is not the only project that must get done. Teaching classes, fulfilling other professional and personal obligations, remaining attentive and responsive to those I care about tend to take precedence over long-term obligations. The exigencies of daily life often undermine the best laid plans for the long haul.

In the end, we do our best, aspiring to noble virtues, pursuing the big projects, and dealing with the daily demands that constantly press in upon us. Maybe the only aspiration I need to recall as I recalibrate for the turning of the calendar is a lesson from my former teacher, the late Marilyn R. Waldman, who often urged her students to “press on regardless.” Whatever the coming year may offer, we will, all of us, somehow see it through.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! ♨

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