Peaceable Man Files #24: A Day-to-Day Approach to Making Lasting Change in 2023
Random musings on my gypsy existence at my cabin in the Endless Mountains of Pennsylvania and wherever else life takes me.
I spent my New Year’s holiday just the way I like it: quietly, with close family, surrounded by nature.
Rachael and I headed up to the mountain house, where we were joined by my youngest son Liam. We spent four gloriously peaceful days watching football and taking long walks in the snow with the dogs.
On New Year’s Eve, after an early dinner at a local sports bar, we came back to the cabin to see the thrilling midnight end to the Georgia-Ohio State playoff game. Then it was off to bed.
No parties, no fireworks, no banging of pots and pans.
I’ve never been big on New Year’s Eve celebrations. For one, they require me to stay up past midnight, something I’ve never been good at and which only gets harder as I get older.
Sleep, I’ve found over the years, is as important as a good diet and exercise in keeping my sensitive nervous system in balance. Miss just a few hours of good REM sleep and I’m washed out the entire next day. Staying up to watch the ball drop at midnight just doesn’t seem worth it.
Nope, for me, January 1st is just another day when the sun will rise, and my philosophy is all about making the most of every new day I’m given, knowing they’re all precious and worth celebrating.
As for all the resolutions that go with the ringing in of a new year—well, we all know that resolutions generally fail. They fail because human beings don’t do well with plans that require putting off short-term pleasure for long-term gain.
We are genetically engineered to seek immediate gratification. Yeah, we want that beach body when summer comes around, but that’s six months away, and in the meantime, that cookie sure looks good, and working out at the gym is sooooo boring.
It’s easy to let resolutions fall by the wayside when we have twelve months to bring them to realization. Setting them gives us a short-lived infusion of optimism—I can do this!—but by the time February comes around, the enthusiasm has faded amidst the day-to-day routine of our lives.
Even worse, those resolutions, formed in good faith at the beginning of the year, become another reason to beat ourselves up when we get to the end of the year. Failed again. Why even bother trying?
Here’s an idea: Instead of setting grand yearly goals for our self improvement, thereby setting ourselves up for failure, why not resolve to approach each new day as a opportunity for growth and renewal?
Why not commit in 2023 to actively seek, celebrate, and give thanks for the blessings, large and small, in every day that dawns, knowing we have a limited number of those days in this life?
It’s a mindset change, one that provides both short-term and long-term benefits. Research consistently shows that people who take on an “attitude of gratitude” are generally happier, more optimistic, and feel better about themselves. They also tend to get more things done and to take on healthy habits like exercise.
The beauty of this day-to-day approach to personal change, versus the annual setting-of-resolutions exercise, is that we get a chance for a do-over every twenty-four hours. If we get to the end of a tough day and realize we haven’t done such a good job of actively seeking out and being grateful for our blessings that particular day, no big deal. Just try again the next day.
And when it works—well, it’s life-changing. As I relate in my book The Long Walk Home, this daily approach to gratitude has transformed my life and made me a more optimistic, positive person.
Just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step, a journey of a new year begins with a new day. And each new day begins with the thoughts we bring to it.
“To him whose elastic and vigorous thought keeps pace with the sun,” Thoreau wrote, “the day is a perpetual morning.”
Who doesn’t want their days to be a perpetual morning?
I hope your day, and your year, is filled with blessings.