a new year’s resolution guide – or you could just be good all the time

IN two days’ time the less informed will be “making New Year’s Resolutions”, which for most people is just the start of an annual process of breaking promises that one did not even need to make in the first place.

I would never discourage anyone from starting off, since even the week or so that most people spend adhering to their stated promise is helpfully better than nothing.

But by now, we should be fast forwarding past light resolutions. Quitting smoking and heavy drinking, going to the gym, eating healthy and other such are ranked low in necessity – and thankfully, IQ tests and work appraisals don’t look into such things.

They mostly fail, anyway, because there is rarely a guide that goes along with them; I’ve made many a resolution in the past following the usual procedure that involves being in a heightened state of emotions and reciting the so-called resolution to a loved one.

I eventually learnt that they are easier to keep if they are planned and follow some sort of guide, rather than made verbally and backed by memory. Most resolutions evaporate with the New Year’s hangover, as do the witnesses who should monitor implementation. 

We need heavy yet simple resolutions, well-planned and documented; resolutions based on serious premise involving a behaviour change that will make an impact on our own lives and those of the people we come into contact with – called ‘stakeholders’, in the field of Corporate Social Responsibility. 

Wish-list resolutions about corruption would be good, but are irrational because the corrupt have a material objective that can’t just be wished away – they want to eat good food, drive fast or big or new cars, live in big houses… They can’t go without these things in exchange for integrity or the respect of other respectable people in society.

We would also be remiss in hoping that civil servants would make resolutions to not squander public resources or prioritise spending better so that ordinary Ugandans of humble means can have their lives uplifted or improved; it’s much easier for them to use these resources for self-aggrandisement.

Let’s go for resolutions that anyone can meet simply and evidently.

The best are contained in a simple but powerful text – ‘Desiderata’, by United States poet Max Ehrmann. Read it and follow:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

That’s all – Strive to be happy, in this New Year.

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