New Year's Aspirations?

So, it's that time again, when we're suddenly accountable for those New Year's resolutions that seemed SO reasonable, so do-able, just yesterday or the day before. Fortunately for all, TechCrunch offers apps to help us keep what Time described (for 2012!) as the top 10 broken New Year's resolutions. Now that there are apps, there's nothing stopping me!This year, I'm framing my New Year's goals as aspirations, not resolutions. Here's why: there's something minimalist about language of resolutions, as though succeeding in keeping our resolutions bring us up to some minimal standard of adequacy. Then, if we lapse, well, we now have a grim new little burden of failure to carry around. I suspect this might be one reason folks tend to shy away from the whole idea of deliberate seasonal behavior modification. (I admit that the peer pressure associated with the seasonal nature of this might also play a part in some folks' resistance...) Plus, language of "resolutions" makes the start of the New Year feel much more like Lent than it should. There's wisdom in our tradition's beginning the Church year with the edgy hopefulness of Advent, then careening into the joy of Christmas, then having a little breathing space of Ordinary time before even thinking about our shortcomings. As the liturgical year shows us, it's bad practice to lead with shortcomings. So instead of resolutions, let's try aspirations. Instead of shortcomings, what are some opportunities for little steps that will make us a little bit better in some way--a bit more aware, a bit healthier. Not "by next year I will be devastatingly fit," but "I'll switch from cream to milk in my coffee," or some such smaller aspiration. Succeeding in an aspiration, even a small aspiration, doesn't raise us up to adequacy like succeeding in a resolution does, but is cause for a pat on the back, a gold star that brings a little joy. Failing in an aspiration has a different feel than failing in a resolution, too--it's a lost hope, but doesn't make us lost causes. And hope does spring eternal--a lapse here or there isn't the end of the story.Any aspirations for the New Year?

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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