Is the road to good intentions a dead-end?

Life is about accepting the past, embracing it as something that happened and is truly the past

Anjum Niaz December 29, 2016
The writer is a journalist with over 30 years of experience

“If you don’t know what truly motivates you,” says Tanya Tarr, an expert in self-help, “you don’t know what will satisfy you.”

Here we go again then! Making our New Year’s promises to ourselves and announcing to others. Tomorrow, when the sun dips splashing a riot of gold and orange before vanishing, it’ll be goodbye to the last sunset of 2016. Times have been surreal. Many will say, ‘be gone’ to the year that rent asunder people based on their colour, sex, religion, sect and social status, leaving a world deeply divided among whites, non-whites, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Shiites, Sunnis, rich and poor.

Moving on, let’s talk about us and our resolutions, self-centered as humans are. Declarations are primarily about us and our wants and desires. There’s nothing wrong with that! We keep convincing ourselves that this is the year we will be true to ourselves. The majority of our vows are doomed from the beginning. The very thing that we seek to change about ourselves is what we know in our hearts we cannot. A 2002 study tells us that 75 per cent of us will break the resolutions within the first week, and the rest, kind of follow the path slowly to the same result. The road to good intentions is often paved with failures.

One of our avid commitments to ourselves relate to better eating habits. Our relationship with food is basic and innate to our nature. We don’t always eat to survive, but to indulge. Our best intentions are broken by temptations everywhere. Remember, even Adam could not resist that apple. In Pakistan, where people push food on you and feel they are being good hosts by doing is a trap. You cannot escape it, try as you might. It is a setup for failure. The smells, the looks the offerings are too much. Regular exercise/workout is another contract we make to selves. But staying the course tests our willpower — while the mind is willing, the flesh is weak!

Psychologists say that a lot of people have low self-esteem and therefore make the excuse of the New Year to help them. They say that people who are truly meant to do something, do it any time of the year and without making a big fuss about it, and because they intend to do something they resolve to do. Most of us have good intentions to follow through and stick with our resolutions, but we end up making excuses, that make sense only to us, about why we failed. Do you think the 74.2 billion-dollar-man Warren Buffet, whose fortune surged more than anyone else’s in 2016, makes resolutions? Wonder what the 86-year old wishes for? Not to make more money, but probably to spend more time with the family. Alas! I predict even Warren will fail. Powerful as he may be, rich as he may be, he is creature of habits that keep us hostage.

Doesn’t matter what the habits are that we try to break — eating, drinking, working too much, living unhealthy lifestyles — they are all more powerful than us. Or brain drives our behaviour, and we may not have the pluck to change. But hey, wait, let us not give in so easy. Psychologists think we should make baby promises to ourselves, build them up slowly, celebrate small wins, and keep repeating this cycle of small successes throughout the year.

What makes us wiser and better? What elevates us above ourselves? Is it the years of experience; a life well lived; travel; friends; family and the successes and failures in life? Not all benefit from experience. As we age we are supposed to be smarter and “know better,” but it that really so? Many of us become calmer or crankier, richer or poorer, healthier or lazy, happier or sadder, more tolerant or narrow minded… it is truly up to us. It is the way we look at life as we see us approaching the age where our parents were, and thinking how superannuated they were at that age.

Life is about accepting the past, embracing it as something that happened and is truly the past. The past is beyond us, we cannot do anything about that. The past does not own us. However, if we do not let go of the demons of the past, and dwell on them, or keep talking about what ‘could’ve, should’ve,’ we cannot move on and be truly happy. Happiness is relative and means different things to different people. We need to bury the hatchet on the negativity of the past and look to the future as a chance to do better and step outside of ourselves. How can we become better? Be more relevant to others? How can we be of help to our family and friends, and society in general? We need to truly connect with our inner selves and with others. We own our future. We own our happiness. Forgiveness helps us more than the one who is on the other end. When we forgive, we elevate ourselves and are a bigger person.

We all have dreams when we are young. Many come true, but many may not. Life is full of ups and downs. It is not to say that we did not learn from failure. Failure teaches us lessons that success cannot teach us. Regrets and anger of the past should be put in a bottle and thrown out to the seas. Time to start fresh, at any age. The best is yet to come — 2017 should start fresh with our hopes and dreams and happy thoughts. For now, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow is another day.

Happy New Year!

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2016.

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Rex Minor | 5 years ago | Reply For now, eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow is another day. Talking of the past, your phrase was also expressed by Babar, the conquerer of India who was equaly obsessed with this world.. Rex Minor
Toti calling | 5 years ago | Reply Lovely article about good and bad in 2016 and wishing a new era when the sun goes up on Sunday. But we should not only talk about our dreams but dreams and wishes of others. I remember Punjab Club was attacked on New Year's Eve because many did not want anybody to celebrate new year's dawn. It has happened in many other Muslim countries more often. So many do it in hiding. That is not what those do who live in secular countries. Ms Niaz, carry on writing. It can wake up some souls.
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