Last night (or more accurately, very, very early this morning) after we’d all stopped singing Auld Lang Syne, one of the hosts asked if anybody had a New Year’s Resolution to share. She mentioned hers, and a few people chimed in, but nothing big came of it.
I personally haven’t made a New Year’s Resolution in quite some time. There are a few reasons for this. One is that, if you don’t see your resolution through, it makes your reflections on December 31st that much less satisfactory. Oh, I had these grand goals and then forgot about them a month later (or two or three months, or however long you manage to last). The more important reason is that, while New Year’s Day is a lovely and symbolic fresh start, I feel like any resolution really worth making deserves to be made immediately, not locked away to only come out at the start of the calendar year. Resolutions don’t really care what the date is.
I mentioned this bit of philosophy to my mother when I was visiting for Christmas, and her response was to pick a word and make that your word for the year. Not understanding her completely, I picked a random multi-syllable word (defenestration) and suggested it. She dismissed my word. (I don’t blame her. I don’t think I’d want to make my entire year about throwing things out of windows. It could get expensive.) Her word for the year is Thankfulness. Every day she wants to take some time to find at least one thing that occurred that day for which she is thankful.
I like this concept a bit more than that of resolutions. But after some thought, I decided to pick a phrase instead of a single word. And, being me, I picked a phrase from one of Jane Austen’s novels. I have been thinking on and off about this particular line for a bit more than a year now, because if I ever get another tattoo, it will be of this quote.
I’m sure many of you recognize it. It’s a line from Emma. After she claims credit for setting up Miss Taylor with Mr. Weston, Mr. Knightly gently chides her. How can you have succeeded in doing something, he reasons, when you didn’t actually do anything other than imagine the outcome would be pleasant. So taken in context, it is a remonstrance. You cannot claim success for what is simply luck or good fortune. Be humble, you haven’t earned all the good things that have happened to you, some of them came about because of the work of others. Instead of claiming credit, be grateful for your good fortune. That is enough.
But that’s not all, at least not to me. I just read the quote in context, but what about if you take it out of context? Taken on it’s own, it can become an inspirational reminder. Is there a goal you want to achieve? Well if you expect to succeed, you must continue to work toward it. Positive thinking can do a lot, but it cannot be the end of it. In order to succeed, you must put forth an effort.
For all those little resolutions that I will make throughout the year, the ones I refuse to wait for a specific calendar date to enact, I will strive to keep this phrase in mind. If I expect to succeed, I must also expect to work.
Finally, I leave you with this Niel Gaiman quote as my wish for your new year.