Every new year, we make resolutions. We’re going to be better people. We’re going to try new things. We’re going to get in better shape. We’re going to read more. We’re going to be more organized. We’re going to spend more time with our families. We’re going to be more patient. We’re going to be less stressed. We’re going to be happier. We’re going to make a difference.
Then, life happens. We get busy. We get tired. We get sick. We have a bad day. We slip on and then completely abandon our resolutions. And around this time of year, we wonder, should we even bother this year?
This is what the great Samuel Johnson must have been wondering near the end of 1775. With 1776 on the horizon, Johnson wrote in his diary,
“When I look back on resolutions of improvement and amendment which have year after year been made and broken, either by negligence, forgetfulness, vicious idleness, casual interruption, or morbid infirmity; when I find that so much of my life has been stolen unprofitably away, and that I can descry by retrospection scarcely a few single days properly and vigorously employed, why do I yet try to resolve again? I try because reformation is necessary and despair is criminal.”
Reformation is necessary and despair is criminal. That is why we must keep trying.
No one is perfect. We all have bad days. It’s okay to feel a little discouraged. But to give up? To not even try? That is criminal. “Disgraceful,” Marcus Aurelius would say, “for the soul to give up when the body is still going strong.”
All of us have fallen short in the last year…and the years before that. We broke our resolutions. We made the same mistakes again and again. We were “jarred, unavoidably, by circumstances,” as Marcus said. But now it’s time to pick ourselves up and try again. We have to keep going. We can’t give up.
Because the alternative is unthinkable. A new year is fast approaching. It’s that time of year where some people will try again and some people won’t.
Which will it be? Who will you be?
For those ready for reformation, we created the 2023 New Year New You Challenge. It’s a set of 21 actionable challenges—presented one per day—built around the best, most timeless wisdom in Stoic philosophy. Our goal is to help you make 2023 your best year yet.