So, in case you haven’t noticed yet, it’s the new year. I rang it in with a box of tissues and some zinc and vitamin c, fighting whatever illness I’ve somehow caught. So, at home the past two days, I’ve had some time to reflect between groggy pill swallowing and half-awake watching of the “Monk” marathon.
After a few hours of the Today show this morning, I realized that the thing I find most intriguing about the whole start of the year affair is how interested people are in the same old stuff, every New Year’s. We eat up anything about organization, can’t get enough of the helpful tummy flab exercise guy who’s promoting his new book, and we watch with renewed awe the summary of the fall of the careers of various celebrities as though we’ve never seen anything like it before. A week later, the same stuff is still there, without the spin of the New Year, but somehow, it’s lost its appeal.
This leads me to conclude that there must be something truly powerful in the mere concept of new. Something new in and of itself can make the ordinary seem so interesting, sparkling, shiny, desirable (even if it’s not.) Why is newness such a powerful thing?
1. It sounds good. Do you ever wonder why marketers emblazon the phrase “new and improved” – on a product even when nothing discernable has actually changed and it’s still the same essential thing you’ve been using all along? Why do bath and cosmetics stores add new fragrances and colors to their lines as quickly as they discontinue them? Because humans are enamored of the concept of new. We tire of the norm, we want the glamour of change. But here’s the kicker: nine times out of ten, we don’t want radical change. Just a new color, shade or ingredient to the normal thing that we love.
This is why the New Year holiday is so important to us. It gives us a moment in our lives when things can sound really good. For once, we can share our lists of resolutions with others without the shame of the reality behind them. For example: “This year, I resolve to lose 15 pounds, get rid of 50% of the clutter in my house, get a promotion at work or find a new job, and find that special someone!” Man, that sounds so much better than “I’m a lonely, overweight, slacker packrat with no motivation.” Doesn’t it? And that’s a powerful thing, because for most of the year, it’s really hard not to frame ourselves in that type of negative light. That’s why we are thankful, celebratory, and inspired when each year, we realize that there’s a time set aside to focus on the good things that we’ve done or hope to do.
2. It helps us feel good about change. The thing that’s most surprising about the New Year to me is that people treat it with so much mystery when it’s as predictable as the sunrise. It’s going to happen, the same day each year. But that doesn’t stop us from feeling some inexplicable joy when a new year arrives. I think this is a really interesting part of human makeup, and that it illustrates that we’re built this way so that we can accept the inevitable changes that occur in life. Change is going to happen, no matter what. And we don’t always deal with it well. But when we reframe change from the vocabulary of fear and risk and rephrase it in the vernacular of new, somehow, it becomes a more palatable thing.
3. It gives us hope. For whatever reason, the concept of new is a hopeful one in our culture. A new baby symbolizes the promise of life; a new relationship is full of the promise of happiness and satisfaction. Regardless of what will really be. That’s why we make resolutions each new year, even if they are the same ones as the year before. Because simply since it’s a new year, we are full of hope for ourselves and the world around us.
This is the danger of new: We believe in the power of new so strongly, we love the way it sounds so much, we can’t get enough of how it feels, we hope in it so mightily, that we often neglect to realize that newness alone will not bring about change in our lives, our careers, our businesses, our families, and beyond.
A new year does not mean better habits. A new job does not mean more satisfaction. A new marriage or relationship does not mean increased happiness. A new product does not mean success. Just like planting a seed does not mean a harvest. Unless you do the work.
Action, discipline and daily effort are required in order to capitalize on the power of new. That’s why as early as a month into the new year, many of us have already failed to meet our resolutions or given up trying to meet them. We simply don’t do the work.
So this year, are you willing to what it takes to reclaim the powers of new instead of letting them defeat you? Do you have the courage to take the first steps and stay on the path to whatever goal this New Year’s inspired you to create?
Approach new a new way. Do the work, and make new work for you.