New Years Resolution failing? Don't feel bad. It's not you. The whole concept is flawed. According to science, not only is New Year's a terrible time to start in on new goals, but sharp breaks with the past are a wildly ineffective way to accomplish them no matter when you try.
So what's a better alternative?
That's the question I ask myself every year when most other people are racking their brains for resolutions they might actually stick to. I've turned up a number of intriguing possibilities, but apparently there are always more good ideas out there because I just stumbled across another.
It came to me via the Future Crunch newsletter (thanks to the always click-worthy Swiss Miss weekly link pack), and its genius is combining life-changing power with utter simplicity. In fact, the advice boils down to one word -- optimism.
Optimism? In this world?
I can hear you groaning. But hear me out. This isn't another brainless plea for oblivious cheer in a world that seems to be burning down around us (sometimes quite literally). There are a lot of smart people who are incredibly plugged in to what's happening in the world that insist there is plenty of grounds for optimism (Thanks, Bill Gates).
Yet another antidote to the corrosive pessimism (and the fatalism & radicalism it encourages) that dominates politics, media, and intellectual life: The 99 best things that happened in 2017 https://t.co/CoyZScYQ8Q via @qz-- Steven Pinker (@sapinker) January 8, 2018
But even if you can't be persuaded that the world is moving -- however fitfully -- in the right direction, Future Crunch insists you should still insist on making "optimism" your watchword this year. Why? Well, first off because the alternative is lame.
Those who fancy themselves well-informed often default to cynicism, the newsletter points out. In a world of climate craziness, political incompetence, and nuclear saber rattling low expectations might feel like simple clear sightedness. They're not.
"You know who else thinks like that?" asks Future Crunch. "Emo teenagers. They naturally default to cynicism because it's safe. The world is an uncertain, mean place filled with stupid authority figures and meat heads. Far easier to retreat to your room, cry softly onto your copy of Nietzsche, write some dark poetry and wallow in the endless night of the human soul."
But as your mortifying memories of high school no doubt attest, teenagers are kind of dumb. What feels like serious rebellion when you're 16, in reality is often just a replacement for action. Teenagers can blame lack of inexperience and, often, lack of control over their own lives. "As an adult, you've got no excuse," concludes the newsletter.
"Cynicism is lazy, it's the easy way out. If you only expect the worst from society, you never have to worry about being wrong, or disappointed." Hope, in other words, might break your heart sometimes, but it is the precondition for the hard work of making the world, or just your own small circle of the planet, better.
If you accept that premise, how do you act on it? Future Crunch insists that all it takes is one word, repeated over and over and over again.
Ditch your resolutions in favor of a mantra
That word, of course, is optimism.
No, it's not enough to close your eyes, sing Kumbaya, and believe that someone else will come and solve all our problems. You, unfortunately, still need to pay attention to all the bad things happening in the world. But for 2018, why not insist on responding to negativity with fierce, constructive, determined optimism?
Every time the world presents you with cause for frustration and despair -- be that in the professional, political, or personal arena -- remind yourself of your commitment to optimism. It's just one word, but it's an incredibly powerful one.
Armed with it we all can "keep on showing up and insisting that it's possible to create a vibrant, life sustaining global society that works for everyone," insists Future Crunch.
Do you agree?