by Christopher Lehman, Founding Director (@ichrislehman)
In Ancient Rome the God of Gates and Doors was know as Janus.
This deity was always depicted with one face pointed forward and another backward, symbolizing that at a moment of passage—through a door, through day into night, or even through a life changing event—one should look forward as well as look back to reflect on the past.
For a time Janus was honored on the first day of every month. Later a variation of the name was borrowed to signify January as the opening to the new year (though the history of the calendar is interestingly political).
There is something in our humanity, something instinctual, that makes us naturally take on this head-turning at the end of every year. From looking back at events from the previous year, viewing photos, or reading the endless string of “Best Of” lists, we are drawn to remember and reflect.
Then, soon after the last lines of Auld Lang Syne are sung, we look to the hope of the future. Much of this passing through to the new year is making promises: Deciding to be better people. More fit. More balanced. Kinder. Sometimes this newness can be a casting off of the past: I will no longer do this and that. I will stop being that kind of a person.
Using our Past to fuel our Future
As I reflect back, I think of the resolutions that I have made that eventually failed. This cheerful piece from Forbes says only 8% of us keep up with our plans.
Which makes me think: we must be doing it wrong. Part of that wrong for me, I believe, is that I have sometimes resolved to do or be something I am not even close to achieving, yet. Like, my #nerdultion friend, Franki Sibberson, who vowed 2014 would be the year she went from being an apple hater to an apple-a-day eater. …it didn’t go so well:
— Franki Sibberson (@frankisibberson) December 4, 2013
(It’s worth clicking on that tweet and reading the string of fascinated replies.)
Who we grow into on January 1st is made up of one extra day into the new year. It is also made up of the 365 others that came before it. And all the other 365s that came before those.
Which is why, this New Year, I invite you to not just look forward but to also reach into your past. Reflect back to look forward. Think about the ideals you have already taken real steps to realize. Consider the habits you have already started a path to form, then continue building it.
A few things come to mind for me. I resolve to continue:
- my journey in reflecting on my privilege and power as a white American, including looking for and listening to the experiences of others.
- to care for myself. I started about two months ago really focusing on my health and exercise. Not in a “quick fix” kind of a way, but in a shift for me that feels like responsibility I am ready to take on instead of a wish and a whine like I normally handled it. I will continue to do so as the year opens.
- to talk, then write. I really want to say that I’ll write my blog more and get moving on book projects that are slow. But to focus on producing words is a small functional exercise that feels destined for failure. Instead, I’ll continue to surround myself with a community of great thinkers and continue to talk more about ideas. Words will come when they are ready.
- to laugh. It’s one of the parts of life I think I love the most. I have plenty of it and I want plenty more.
As you look to 2016, I’d love to hear the important parts of your past year(s) you plan to bring into the new.
What beliefs have you formed that you are continuing to develop? What actions have you started to take that you want to make better or stronger? What dreams have you already started, maybe even stopped-and-started, that you are ready to revisit?
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