SCOT BELLAVIA: New Day’s Resolutions

Last year started on a Sunday. A blank, replete calendar is a satisfying sight. No missing squares for an awkward partial-week, expediting the return to school and work. No mass confusion over January’s dates; just count by sevens from that first week. A new year ought to start on a new week.

So, 1995, 2006, 2012, 2017, and 2023 gave me an especially clean slate to set a resolution. Well, I was a toddler in ‘95, so I didn’t set any then. (But I did do a lot of personal growth.) The other years, if I kept my resolutions, I could brag that in not a single week of 2006 did I have a sip of soda, or that I read one book each week of 2012, or whatever it was. But this fresh break–new year, new month, new week–didn’t matter because around January 18th, I already lost my motivation from the first being Sunday.
This year, I’m “resolving” day-by-day.

By circumstance, this approach was introduced to me in a sermon, then I heard it from a friend who had heard it from a coworker, then in a couple songs I didn’t realize had been stuck in my head, then my wife told me how she was encouraged by Matthew 6:25-34, a passage saying not to worry about tomorrow. All this wisdom granted to me in this very month.

What I learned from the above sources is that in our human nature we can’t look too far ahead at commitments. They’re too daunting when we compare where we are to where we want to be. The standard resolutions (lose weight, eat healthy, less TV, read more) can be made actionable by turning them into a S.M.A.R.T. goal. And these are over by next January. Or, if we fail, there’s always next January.

The greater challenge are the things without an expiration date, things we agreed to when we were naïve to the difficulty it is to keep to them. Staying married. Minimizing vice. Living according to a creed. Parenting. None of us have the attention span, the heart, nor the mettle to remain true to these things by focusing on the end. Because the end of these comes at death and our success is subjective anyway.

But we can stay true to them for a single day.

When you have to do a hard thing for only a day, it becomes more manageable than keeping it for a year. If a day is too lengthy, do the hard thing for an hour’s time, or a moment’s. I’ve needed these smaller increments myself. I’m only just learning this approach to resolutions.

Sometimes, we won’t succeed even over a day’s time. But affairs and relapses and burnt bridges don’t happen overnight. The daily disciplines working against the larger failures—loving your spouse, abstaining from indulgence, religious practices—are easier because they’re a short-term ask.

I was also reminded, through those multiple circumstantial sources, that we are not guaranteed the rest of this year. We don’t even know if we’ll see the rest of this day. So, to take our lives day-by-day is all we can expect of ourselves; it’s all we have.

And here we are, at the conclusion, which can only be a cliché because clichés are the only things that are universal. But this cliché seems new to me because I’m learning it tangibly now. It is to take one day at a time.

Scot Bellavia

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