2020 was a stressful year and unlike any in recent memory. The American Psychological association points out that COVID-19 has altered every aspect of American life, from health and work to education and exercise. The pandemic has also wrought havoc on holiday traditions. In response, I tend to view life the way Albert Einstein did, like a bicycle ride. The only way to maintain your balance is to keep moving. We all get the same 365 days. What matters most is what we do with them.
We are in a new year. It has been traditionally celebrated with warm drinks, open hearts, friends, fireworks and revelling. We shared thoughts on love, life and past experiences. We are reminded of how important family and love really is. We move past the day itself and into the self-awareness stage. What will we do for the next year? How will we right a wrong from the past? How can a situation be improved?
With resolutions, we are announcing to the world and ourselves what we will accomplish. News Year’s Eve focuses on indulgence, celebration and even hugs and kisses. As the countdown begins to close out the previous year, it invites us to declare our goals for the next one. These types of declarations seem to have a strong sense of purpose at this time of year. They are filled with meaning and collective energy. It is wonderful to watch and marvel at the Times Square Ball Drop, but not lose sight of the power gifted during this season.
Press forward with your eye on the prize. Your vision of your future will strengthen the journey. Where do you want to be in a year? Where do you want to be in five years? Take action to prepare for your vision and goals. Consider it a marathon. You must train daily, slowly build stamina and develop endurance to run the distance. So it is with life. And your daily decisions will influence generations.
Closing out the past year and bracing to enter into the new one is the turning point of all four seasons. Days become longer, the sun begins rising earlier and a spectacular luminous feeling grows in many hearts.
Historically, this energy and vibration was so strong during the period between December and January, that some ancients believed humans manifested the rays of light from their hearts that sprung into the night sky. In those societies, the new year was viewed as the time of a struggle between Chaos and Order. It was believed Chaos was trying to take over and people needed to clean up bad behavior, collectively work together and declare good deeds to establish future order.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. The hustle bustle and noise of today's 24-four hour news cycle combined with social media clutter is a chaotic landscape. It often turns new year's reflections into a laundry list of guilt-driven tasks to be mastered. In his classic talk, "Of Regrets and Resolutions," Dieter F. Uchtdorf wrote: "Isn’t it true that we often get so busy? And, sad to say, we even wear our busyness as a badge of honor, as though being busy, by itself, was an accomplishment or sign of a superior life. Is it?"
Regardless of what you believe, the origins of these traditions ask us to count our blessings and ask the New Year to manifest further good fortune. The early days of January are a good time for a thorough house cleaning. Return items borrowed. Give back that which was given to you. Frequently offer a smile, laugh, or good feeling. The most important spirit to foster this year is that of family, love, reflection and forecasting the future. Look back at where you were and how far you have come. Look ahead and see where you are going. Lock in on that feeling and make it so.
Rise above superficial connections. With the click of a mouse, we can interact with scores of people in an instant, without ever having to engage in the depth that true human contact brings. I love technology. My wife and I live far away from many friends and family and it is great to be able to still follow their lives. But tweets can be trivial. Memes are often shallow. And social media posts pop up and blow away with the internet wind. Too much time "exercising our thumbs, " as one concerned grandma put it, can be a counterproductive practice. Uchtdorf said: "If we fail to give our best personal self and undivided time to those who are truly important to us, one day we will regret it."
None of us will be on this big blue marble, Mother Earth, for very long. When viewed through the millennia, our years barely amount to the blink of an eye. So regardless of circumstances, no matter our challenges or trials, there is something in every 24 hours to embrace and cherish. Resolve to focus each day on that which brings gratitude and joy.
Happy New Year!
Michael Strickland of Pocatello teaches for Boise State University and is a visiting scholar at the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Institute for Leadership, Equity and Justice at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education.