Beginning the New Year with a Clean Slate

This time of year, there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of posts giving hints on how to keep one’s New Years resolutions. Some of the advice is even good:

  • Make your resolutions public. While we might easily break what amounts to a promise to ourselves, if we tell others, we have at least a modicum of incentive to keep going.
  • Make small, realistic resolutions for change rather than large, sweeping resolves. Bad habits cannot be broken over night; if it were that easy to change, all of us would be perfect.
  • Be specific. Instead of resolving to lose weight, for example, make a pact with yourself to be at least a couple of pounds lighter by the end of the year. Plan how you will lose that weight.
  • Instead of making resolutions, set goals. Once a resolution is broken, it is broken, and it seems futile to continue, but with goals, if we fail one day, we can pick up our banner the next day and continue charging into the future.

Despite all this advice, by this second day of the new year, many of us have already abandoned our resolves, and by the end of the first week, most of us will have given up. Only 8% of us will keep those resolutions until the end of the year.

This sad statistic makes us seem wishy-washy at best and lazy at worst, but I wonder if there is something else at work here rather than a lack of . . . well, a lack of resolve.

In response to my New Year’s post, Coloring My New Year, writer Malcolm R. Campbell (whose first book The Sun Singer will soon be republished by Second Wind Publishing!!) commented: “January 1 does have a clean-slate kind of feeling to it. Perhaps it is that fresh new calendar. Maybe it’s our constant reminders to ourselves to start writing 2014 (on checks and documents) rather than 2013. For some, it’s a line in the sand between old habits and new dreams. We can use it, the new calendar, to motivate ourselves one way or another.”

And then I realized why it’s so hard to maintain our New Years goals or stick to our resolutions.

We don’t lose the resolve. We lose the clean-slateness. After only a few days, the sense of a new beginning dissipates. We’ve become used to writing “2014.” We’re back into the routine of our lives, probably more tired, more broke, and fatter than we were before the holidays. And somehow, in the comfort of our old lives, we forget the idealism we had when embracing a new year. We forget that for a moment we believed anything was possible, that we could become better, stronger, healthier, wiser, richer, more beloved if only we . . .

I abandoned the practice of making resolutions when still a child after I realized that by the end of that first week, I’d completely forgotten my resolution. (I only remembered when the next new year rolled around and I had to, once again, make that same undoable commitment.)

As an adult, I don’t make resolutions, though during the past couple of years I have tried to make each day special, to become a bit “more” by the end of they day than I was at the beginning, even if was only by a well-chosen word, the glow of a smile, a laugh shared, a moment of appreciation for the world around me.

The truth is, whether we feel it or not, each day does begin with a clean slate.

What are you going to do with your today?


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

5 Responses to “Beginning the New Year with a Clean Slate”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    I’m already using one of those tips. Thanks Pat.

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    I think setting goals is about the best you can do. Might clean up my place then I’ll have a cleaner slate.

  3. Malcolm R. Campbell Says:

    It’s easy to relapse on those dreams and resolutions once the fresh calendar gets a bit tattered,


  4. Pat Bertram Says:

    As for the origin of the phrase, “Starting with a Clean Slate” — A slate tablet was kept near the helm on which the watch keeper would record the speeds, distances, headings and tacks during the watch. If there were no problems during the watch, the slate would be wiped clean so that the new watch could start over with a clean slate.

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