Calendars, Resolve and the Human Condition

'Your success and happiness lies in you. Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you shall form an invincible host against difficulties.' ~ Helen KellerClick To Tweet

There is a great deal of irony in the human desire to see New Year’s Day as an opportunity to begin again: to turn over a new leaf… to renew… to resolve to be different.

The irony stems from the fact that it is our own egoic brain (and in some cases our collective egoic brain that gives importance and significance to the first of January in any given year. But other than the ability to say “I’ve been doing this all year” or to share a conversation with someone else about New Year’s resolutions and how long you kept them, there is nothing fundamentally different about this morning than there is about any other morning. 1 January doesn’t magically grant us more resolve than we had yesterday!

Except that we bestow upon it a sense of renewal… of restoration… of magical power.

And perhaps, that is enough.

Chip and Dan Heath think so, and their data back it up… We choose to do significant things on significant dates – perhaps because we think those things will consequently be more likely to succeed. Joining the gym, getting married, quitting sugar or smoking or drinking… All likely to happen on a date with significance.


Yet, when you analyse random events – chance encounters, natural occurrences – they fall relatively equally across all the days of the year.

I honestly cannot remember the date I met my husband. It was in May 1999 – but I cannot tell you more than that. Babies are no more likely to be born on 1 January than any other day of the year (with the exception of a date in late September… about nine months after 1 January!)

So why do we bestow such significance and power on some dates and not on others?

I think, perhaps, because it takes matters out of our hands. If people are capable of giving up a major vice – like smoking – on 1 January, they were able to give it up equally successfully on 31 December. So why didn’t they? Because they believed the significance of the date – and possibly the collective momentum of scores of other people doing the same thing at the same time – would help them. Would strengthen their resolve…

And therein lies the rub.

Resolve is internal to you. It isn’t something granted to you by the calendar.

If it’s worth doing, decide to do it.

Regardless of what day it is.

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