“The firmer your grasp on reality, the more power you will have to alter it for your purposes.” — Robert Greene, 50th Law
It’s good to be positive, to hope that the new year will bring good tidings. But when positivity becomes naïve optimism, you delude and shield yourself from the truth.
We are at that time of the year again. You’ll hear statements like these everywhere you go:
“I can’t wait to see what 2022 has for me,” “New year, new me.”
We think that our lives will get transformed, that our ideal self will materialize simply because it’s a new year. But how has this worked out in the past years? Chances are, you’ve realized that we rarely take on a new year with the same level of excitement that we anticipated.
To think that 2022 is going to be better just because it’s another year is self-delusion.
A new year doesn’t mean a new you. As Bishop TD Jakes once said,
“It is not the movement of the clock that produces the newness of life. It is the movement in your mind.”
Jordan Peterson also echoed the same sentiment in his book 12 Rules for LIfe, when he said, “Tomorrow is just like today.” The only difference, he said, is that “tomorrow could be better.”
One of the saddest realities that keep people stuck in life is this assumption that somehow, someday, things are going to magically get better. That as we get older, things tend to fall into place for us on their own. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
There’s no guarantee that tomorrow will be better than today unless you deliberately do something to make it different. As Murphy’s law states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” In other words, things are more likely to move towards chaos when we just let them be.
Most people think that Murphy’s law is too pessimistic. Most of us, no doubt, must have squinted our eyes the first day we came across it. But think about it for a minute and you’ll realize it’s an existential reality.
Think back to when you wanted to break a bad habit, how hard was it? But does it require the same effort to start a bad habit? All you need is to let yourself freely explore your natural cravings and everything will go downhill.
Everything that will be better must be deliberately worked upon over and over again. This is just the reality of life. A new year will mean a worse year if you don’t do what it takes to make it better. Look around you and you’ll understand how true this is.
Your focus shouldn’t be what 2022 has for you. The question is, what do you have for 2022? What are you going to do to make it better than the previous year?
“Some people spend their entire lives waiting for the time to be right to make an improvement,” wrote James Clear in Atomic Habits. And the best time we often think the long-awaited change will happen is a new year.
Sure, be happy and grateful for being alive to see another year. But don’t be naively optimistic about the outcome.
Naïve optimism will rub you of the kind of sober reflection you need to gain the proper perspective that will help you take ownership. Honestly look through 2021 with a fine-toothed comb. Was it the best you could do? What things could you have let go or implemented to make it better?
Looking back on your life with intense realism will give you a greater feel for what’s ahead and the responsibility that could come with growth. It will make you understand that tomorrow could be just like yesterday (or worse) if you don’t deliberately work to make it different.
Sure, reality usually isn’t pleasant. But accepting it is the only way to alter it. As Robert Greene wrote in the 50th Law,
“Reality has its own power — you can turn your back on it, but it will find you in the end, and your inability to cope with it will be your ruin.”