Why aren’t 365 good days the same as a good year?
Why are New Year’s Resolutions a thing?
Loneliness, dissatisfaction and feelings that our lives are empty and disappointing are much more pronounced around the Christmas and New Year period.
Why is that so?
Answer: A powerful combination of factors causes us to be more reflective and pessimistic at this time. Today we’re going to explore and de-mystify these.
Firstly, there’s the PAUSE.
Just like COVID-19, everything has slowed down at this time of year. People are not at work distracting themselves with ‘busyness’. They have time to think.
Then there’s the inevitable REFLECTION and REVIEW.
It’s like post-match analysis… the best time to reflect on a game is when the game is paused, during time-out, half-time, or post-game.
So at year’s end, you conduct your own post-match analysis. You look back at what was, what you did, and how you did.
Thirdly and finally are the HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Everyone goes into the holiday period expecting to have the best time because they won’t be working. They’re looking forward to relaxation and family time, and so they come in with expectations that are high.
But what really happens is that our reflective mind conducts an intense and scathing post-match analysis of our progress over the past year. On one hand we have high expectations for holiday time, on the other we have the reality that we are going to be very self-critical.
This combination is a recipe for disaster.
My University Example
I was very impartial about university. When I attended uni, I found my subjects and examinations a chore and longed for the holidays.
But when the holidays came around, I was so lacking in stimulation that I felt terrible. I spent all semester coveting the time where I would not be doing university or study..
This goal was too vague – it detailed what I was not going to be doing… but there was no details on what I was going to be doing – work? Travel? Short-films?
I never filled the time intentionally, and did not engage in any meaningful activities. Playing playstation and drinking more were just examples of the pleasure treadmill.
The problem with Christmas and New Years is that, there are few worse feelings than feeling terrible when you expect to be feeling good.
Three powerful factors
The PAUSE, the REFLECTION and REVIEW then finally our HIGH EXPECTATIONS. The combination of these fuels a naive New Year’s Resolution in January, that we’ve forgotten about by February.
365 good days are not the same as a good year.
If I wake up tomorrow and get to spend the day however I want, what would I choose?
Perhaps I’d sleep in till 11:30, then watch some Netflix, and go to a friend’s place to start a long drinking and partying session.
That might be fun every once in a blue moon, but when you look back over a week, a month, a quarter or a whole year doing this, most of us will feel pretty unfulfilled.
Remember most importantly the distinction between pleasure and fulfilment which is explained in the pleasure treadmill.
If we get to plan a fun day, it will be filled with PLEASURABLE activities.
If we get to plan a year, we focus less on ‘fun’ and a bit more on FULFILMENT.
Even my brother, king of the introverts.
My brother is the king of the introverts. I love this because he is my test subject for my craziest ideas.
When COVID-19 sent us all home, he was in his element. He got to spend all day indulging in Nintendo Switch, Japanese anime and Youtube. He didn’t need to leave the house… life was great.
I was somewhat surprised a month or two in to hear him, of all people, toying up the idea of participating in a digital detox.
No matter who you are, a life on the pleasure treadmill is not likely to be good enough. Take it from the king of the introverts.
An antidote to New Year’s Resolutions
Step 1: MVL, always MVL.
Step 2: Keep your MVL in mind everyday, especially when you reach Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Schedule in the things that offer fulfillment, not just pleasure.
“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!”
– Dr. Seuss
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