Daily Resolutions

From the Headmaster's Desk, January 4, 2018

I hope that you all enjoyed Christmas and New Year festivities.  As I welcomed in 2018 earlier this week, plenty of people around me were talking about resolutions.  Some estimates suggest that 40% of the population make a resolution, so it’s not surprising that it was a subject of conversation amongst my friends and family.  Making a resolution is, of course, a positive step, acknowledging that there is an improvement to be made, be it eating more vegetables, saving money, doing regular charitable work, learning a language, or the most popular resolution every year: doing more exercise.

Of course, this aim of improving one’s health and fortunes is noble, and it is natural at the beginning of a New Year to think about how to make things better. However, the success rate with New Year’s resolutions is not very high.  One study notes that 25% of resolutions don’t last one week, and 80% of resolutions have failed by the second week of February.  And another university study suggests just 8% of people achieve their resolution – I have to be honest, this is better than I would have predicted, but the point is clear: If you’re making a resolution, the odds are against you!

I have to confess, I have never much liked the idea of New Year’s resolutions.  I think it is because, to make a resolution, I would have to admit that I have a weakness or that I have been doing something wrong.  And if I have been doing something wrong in my life or I want to change something, then why wait until January 1st?  It seems a bit silly – why not sort it today?

In short, I’m not a New Year’s resolution kind of person; I’m an immediately resolute person: I’ve always believed that we should just be the person that we want to be, every day.  And if you slip, then be better the next day.

Let’s just take one example, such as giving up a bad habit, be it smoking, drinking or being mean to your sibling.  At New Year’s, some people say I will not do this anymore.  That’s a noble start, but if you slip, then don’t just accept the defeat and give up on the resolution and bully your sibling every day.  If you stumble, then wake up the next day determined again to make things better.

Be patient and persevere.  Every day.

Some of you may have heard Prince Harry interview President Obama over the holidays: this aired on BBC Radio 4 last Wednesday, and it is well worth a listen on iPlayer.  There were some serious moments and some light-hearted ones.  At one point, Prince Harry asked Obama what his resolution was for 2018.  Obama’s reply very much aligned with my views:  ‘I’m not sure I believe in New Year’s resolutions.  Typically people break them.  I believe in making sure each day you try to do a little bit better than you did before.’

I like this idea – be the best version of yourself, live your best life, and wake up resolved to be better, every day.

So, whether your aim this term is to be more disciplined in your revision and make the most of the final weeks before your exams, or to eat more vegetables or to be nice to your parents or siblings – all of which are good things to do, by the way – just remember that if you have one bad day, do not lose your resolve.  Every day is a new beginning.

Which reminds me of something the Buddha said, which I also read for the first time over this holiday: Each morning we are born again.  What we do today is what matters most.

So, Happy New Year and my best wishes for the term ahead.  Be grateful for every day and make the most of each one.

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