A couple of decades ago, the greatest implication of New Year’s, other than one more reason to party, was ‘making new year resolutions’. People would strike up conversations with casual acquaintances with the opening line, “So, what’s your new year’s resolution?” Of course everyone knew deep down that New Year resolution would be broken within the first week of the New Year, but the honest intention was to try harder to achieve them that year.
Then somewhere along the line, as life, work and the economy picked up pace, the need to make and keep resolutions was felt more strongly. Whether it was sticking with a diet plan or saving for an aspiration or being more punctual or anything else, we felt the need and the entitlement to get more shots at getting it right. Waiting for the 1st of January of the next New Year would simply not do.
Those in touch with our reality would have realized that living in a multi-cultural nation like India gave us plenty of chances to press the reset button, as we have numerous ‘new years’ all through the calendar year. From Baisakhi in North and Central India, Rongali Bihu in Assam, Puthandu in Tamil Nadu, Vishu in Kerala, Pana Sankranti or Odia Nababarsa in Odisha, Poila Boishakh in Bengal, Ugadi in Andhra Pradesh, Gudi Padwa in Maharashtra and Diwali for most parts of the county, the list goes on. Add to that the 1st of April, the financial New Year, and we had plenty of chances to take another shot at our resolutions.
Now fast forward to today. Our life and times are completely fluid. We are adjusting to a new normal, which itself is dynamic and predominantly digital. The times we live in have much shorter cycles. Access to information is faster; Communication is faster and decision making has become faster too, to keep up with the faster access to information and communication.
Another interesting facet of the fourth industrial revolution, which we are currently experiencing, is that the lines between work and leisure have blurred for many, as the mind is actually the new workplace, supported by portable devices; and we carry these around with us everywhere we go.
So, what does all this mean for New Year and our ability to set resolutions? Well, the two seem to have become completely uncorrelated. New Year has just become the first day of the first month of the next year. And setting resolutions is an exercise that needs a new strategy.
While different approaches work for different people, one that seems practical and yet aspirational is taking small steps towards big goals. Like many best-selling, self-help authors have suggested, time and again, the way to succeed at achieving elusive aspirations is to set one large, relatively immoveable goal which represents that aspiration, and then break it down into smaller, more achievable ones that form a path to your large goal. Pat yourself on the back every time you achieve a small goal and then check if the next little one is relevant in the context of the large immoveable goal. This gives you a chance to review and course correct as frequently as necessary.
The best part of starting small is that you can discover what works and what doesn’t, in the ever-changing environment around you, and that gives you a chance to evolve and discover new ways of achieving your eventual objective.
So, what’s your new year’s resolution?