Daniel T. Richards

Daniel T. Richards

Digital Strategist. Rhetorician. All Around Swell Guy.

Resolving Resolutions

Tonight I’m celebrating last year’s future and everything I have to look forward to over the next twelve months.

2013 was a year of great achievement in my career and personal life. Please indulge me while I reflect on the highlight reel:

  • Celebrated two years with Faiza.
  • FrackNation premiered on AXSTV to rave reviews.
  • Started a blog about rhetoric (finally).
  • PUPPYCIDE raised $46,000 to make a documentary & raise awareness.
  • Began a new chapter of my life in Austin, TX.
  • Met Adam Carolla.
  • Made new friends and reconnected with old ones.

I’m genuinely excited about what I’ll accomplish in 2014, and I relish the opportunity to both reflect and plan. But I wasn’t always this optimistic about the holiday.

“New Year’s” was something I didn’t understand growing up. As one of those intellectually-curious-but-ultimately-misguided kids, my sense of mortality was more heightened than my peers’. Consequently, I looked at any occasion that marked forward progress in time as a reminder of what I haven’t yet accomplished, stunned that people enjoyed the ticking of a clock.

New Year’s seemed like any other holiday—an observance of the past, a memorial of the long-since-gone or even more cynically, the soon-to-be-forgotten. Within that rigidly nihilistic context, celebrating a new year was the equivalent of celebrating your own death, drinking a toast to “another year down and not enough to go.”

It never occurred to me that New Year’s could be about anything else. That is, until I started learning what it means to be genuinely self-interested, to care and plan for my life long-term. One article that helped change my perspective was Alex Epstein’s “The Meaning of New Year’s Resolutions.” He writes:

Too often, the goal-directedness embodied by New Year’s resolutions is the exception in lives ruled by passively accepted forces—unexamined routine, short-range desires, or alleged duties. It is the passive approach to happiness that makes so many resolutions peter out, lost in the shuffle of life or abandoned due to lost motivation. More broadly than its impact on New Year’s resolutions, the passive approach to happiness is the reason that so many go through life without ever getting—or even knowing—what they really want.

I started to realize, thanks to Alex and other self-interested writers, that celebrating the new year is neither about loss nor punishment. It’s not a holiday to celebrate the passing of time but to look ahead and say to the universe, “Tomorrow is mine to achieve.”

This framing is remarkably important. Life changing, in fact.

New Year’s Eve is a holiday of renewal—a moment to take stock of life’s inventory and place an order for supplies. For some it can be a moment for forgiveness, for acknowledging prominent errors and renouncing them. For others it’s a reminder to plan ahead and take charge of your life.

Through resolutions we implicitly acknowledge our free will, take the (first) necessary steps to living a goal-directed life, and make ourselves and our happiness a priority. We resolve to recreate ourselves in our own image—a noble goal indeed.

Happy New Year, rhetors.