I often feel that whenever a new year rolls around so many of the resolutions that are made are really more like new year’s eliminations, new years guilt trips, new year’s punishments. What new year’s resolutions force us to do is look at the unsatisfactoriness, the failure, the shortcomings of the previous year. And that may be the only reflection we allow ourselves. Things we did we wish we hadn’t, things we didn’t do we wish we had. And somewhere along the way we forget to look at the good things, to reflect on the positive, to remember the gleaming golden moments, our successes, the things we did right.
Because though each year that passes may be filled with things we can improve on, with things we can do better, with things we can avoid doing, they are also filled with wonderful things that happened, with marvelous things we did, with instances of joy and triumph and peace. And while self-improvement is something crucial and beneficial to our development as human beings, it does not come from criticism alone– it comes also from the recognition and cultivation of the things we are already doing right– a list that might be longer than we think it is.
I recently watched a fascinating documentary called Life In A Day— A National Geographic Films project that solicited footage of people’s everyday lives on one day– July 24, 2010– from all around the world and compiled it into a film that not only demonstrates the stunningly eclectic diversity of habits, routines, and customs on the planet, but also the larger universal truths that span across all geographic and cultural distances. The project received 4500 hours of footage from people all around the world and compressed it into a poignant one and a half hour film that deals with quotidian simplicities like brushing your teeth, hitting snooze on the alarm clock, and making breakfast, but also the broader themes of ambition, loss, rejection, and love.
What was fascinating to me beyond the astounding beauty of amateur cinematographers capturing simple, ordinary moments was the concept of the amount of total minutes that occur each day. And I don’t mean the 1440 that belong to each one of us, but that number multiplied by the number of people in the world. Because every set of 1440 minutes allotted to each person every day are spent differently, are unique, are their own. And so when National Geographic films asked people to film their lives on one day, on one set of 24 hours, the number of hours of footage they received was far, far greater. And those 4500 hours are only a portion of all the hours experienced by people on earth. What it made me realize was that time is our own, that each day we have 1440 minutes to spend however, wherever, and with whomever we choose. Every one of us.
And so to look back on 2011, on 365 sets of 24 hours, of 1440 minutes, how many beautiful, good things can we find? Even if it’s just enjoying nature or being kind or observing the tightly wound red threads that tie us to everyone around us, our years are so rich with dazzling slivers of life it seems more productive to focus on them, to try to expand and replicate them than to spend so much time over the workouts we didn’t do or the closets we didn’t organize or the old habits we didn’t kick. There is nothing wrong with working on our shortcomings as long as we balance it with reflecting on the good things.
2012 is clear and bright, wide open, free and unfilled. Ripe with opportunity to make it as brilliant and magnificent and breathtaking as last year. Balance resolutions that begin with words like “stop” and end with words like “more” with ones that start with “keep” and “always.” Keep getting fresh air. Keep exploring. Always tell the people you love that you love them. Always be kind. Keep learning. Keep being curious. Always help others. Always express yourself. Keep laughing. Keep smiling. Keep holding hands. Always be thoughtful. Always be grateful. Keep doing what you love. Keep believing. Keep living.
Happy New Year!
*Life In A Day is available on Netflix Watch Instantly