New Year’s resolutions ­- are they worth it or not?

I’ve always been ambivalent about New Year’s Eve celebrations and New Year resolutions - for different reasons.

While it is important to find reasons to celebrate - and a new year is a good enough reason, I suppose - too many people invest too much hope in a new year, and that some people might change for the better.

But change is a constant process and not something that happens overnight. For someone to say that his/her New Year resolution is, for instance, to be a better person is at best hopeful but probably also a bit deceitful.

If, for instance, a person is bad on December 31, there is a high likelihood that s/he will still be bad on January 1. Change in most cases is incremental, so the best one could hope for is for the bad person to be slightly better.

Another popular New Year resolution is around the consumption of food or alcohol or both. This is normally a resolution that gets delayed by at least a few days after January 1 because the person making the resolution often realises it is difficult to make a commitment to eat or drink less when you are caught up in festive season activities.

But within a week or two most people who made the resolution have forgotten what they promised on December 31.

New Year resolutions are not necessarily bad, because they provide an opportunity to reflect on ways in which one can improve, personally or physically. And all of us can always improve.

On an annual basis, I used to do a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunities and threats) analysis of myself. I used to think about the areas in which I was weak and try to find ways in which I could turn my weaknesses into strengths. This was a way of turning myself into a better person. I have not done this for a while.

For instance, I realised that it was easy for me to get angry without much provocation. One of the ways of dealing with this problem was, I realised, meditation. It helped and made me much calmer. The problem is that when you do not meditate often enough, you tend to get back into your bad habits - as is the case with just about everything else in life.

If you are tempted to eat unhealthily, before long you will probably find yourself eating mainly unhealthy food.

If you stop exercising, it is very difficult to get back into an active routine.

My personal SWOT analysis also extended into areas that I did not understand properly and encompassed finding ways of improving my understanding. One of the problems with being a journalist is that people expect you to know and understand just about everything under the sun, and we try our best, but some things are more difficult to comprehend than others.

What I have realised about doing personal SWOT analyses is that it is important to get input from the people around you, which is sometimes difficult to do. Most of us do not take kindly to criticism, no matter how constructive.

So, I suppose if I have to make a New Year resolution it would be to listen a bit more to the people I love and respect and not to get too angry too quickly (a little bit of anger now and then, I suppose, has never harmed anybody).

Which bring me to New Year’s Eve celebrations. I have often wondered why some people are prepared to spend so much money on a celebration. Quite often, the celebration happens in the company of hundreds of strangers and you find yourself, on the stroke of midnight, wishing people you have never seen before or will never see again.

Some of my best New Year’s Eve celebrations have been small intimate affairs where we were maybe six to 10 people, just sitting around a fire, listening to music and talking about everything under the moon.

Some people might say that this is a sign of getting old, and that is not a bad thing. As one gets older, one begins to appreciate friendship and family a lot more and one enjoys spending time with your loved ones even more.

Which brings me back to my New Year resolution. Apart from listening more to those who I love and respect, I also want to find more time to spend with these people. I don’t want to go to another funeral thinking that I should have made time to visit the person who passed away. Life is short, and it is good to spend as much of it as possible surrounded by those you love and respect, and who hopefully love and respect you.

Happy New Year. May all your best wishes come true in 2018.

(First published as a Thinking Allowed column in the Weekend Argus on Saturday 30 December 2017)