"What the new year brings to you depends on what you bring to the new year" is a saying that reminds us that, to a great extent, we actually determine our individual destinies.
The new year of 2013 is nearly upon us and despite whatever happened in 2012, time marches on and we find ourselves facing a new year. Perhaps the last year brought such joys as marriages, births, and good health along with fun trips, gainful employment, and the satisfaction of spending time in pursuit of hobbies. Last year may also have had such setbacks and sorrows as sickness, death, loss of employment, or the worry over poor choices made by a loved one. While many things are beyond our control, experts seem to agree that how we view our world and respond to our environment is a personal choice and has a great impact on our experiences each day, which of course adds up to a week, month, and year. Indeed, it has been said that our life is the sum result of all our choices. With this in mind, many people make resolutions, or pledges at the beginning of a new year, in an attempt to improve their lives.
Making resolutions for a new year is nothing new. Although not necessarily in January, due to different calendars with seasonal and lunar observances, many ancient cultures marked the new year in this way along with celebrations. More than 4,000 years ago, ancient Babylonians made promises to gain favor with the gods and pay off debts. Later in Rome, people had a similar practice in January. Their calendar added the two months of January and February, with January named after a god with two faces called "Janus." One face looked back and one looked forward. It made sense to make resolutions, particularly to treat others better, in honor of this god of beginnings and good fortune who could see both the past and the future.
It is easy to be grateful for the natural beauty which abounds at all times of the year.
This pagan tradition was later adapted when Christianity became a more widespread religion in the Fourth century. Avoiding connections with the god "Janus," other religious days, including The Feast of Circumcision shortly after Christmas, were observed with a focus on prayer and spiritual reflection. The 17th century American Puritans, known for their austerity, also adapted the tradition of resolutions by contemplating past sins.
Whether religious or secular, New Year's Day is recognized by most of the world with the common practice by many to make resolutions for the upcoming year. Despite many things out of our control, there are many things within it. This realization is what prompts us to make commitments to improve by making better choices each day.
Last year's column, "What will the new year bring," offered some advice about how to have a good year by making the resolution to be grateful every day for what life holds. In part, it stated that ancient texts, philosophers, prophets, and even contemporary works across the world seem to come to similar conclusions about what makes a satisfying and joyful life. Make the choice to be grateful to be alive, work to fulfill your personal destiny, and have gratitude for the blessings found each and every day that are part of your journey. Reflection of these blessings are probably simple things that money can't buy and are the same things that people have cherished throughout time such as health, family, faith, shelter, friends, and even good food. In times of trouble, although more of a challenge, many of the same blessings are present and even more sweet.
Readily recognizing the bounty in our lives could be a resolution. Last year's column suggested that this habit could even bring about more good things which is known by many as the "law of attraction." In other words, what we choose to focus on is what we get the most of each day. Focus on the positive if we want more of that in our lives. Conversely, what is our focus if we seem to have so many negative experiences? How about keeping a journal of some sort or even giving a verbal thanks at the end of the day to formally recognize our blessings? When this becomes a habit, our list of positive things will grow. We will not take so much for granted and good things will return to us in ways we could not have even predicted.
A journal or other manner of keeping a thankful list is making the choice to be grateful each day and not have any wasted days. It should be easy to come up with many blessings in countless categories from the people around us, our possessions, nature, abilities, faith, and so on. Be grateful as in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, where indeed, our Father in Heaven even commands us to be thankful in all things. What we bring to the year will in a great measure determine what the year brings to us.
Make it a good day, week, and year by recognizing your blessings.
Happy New Year.