Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year Resolutions

Why make New Year's resolutions? If you need to start a diet or get up earlier in the morning, why wait until Jan. 1? Why not do it today? New Year's resolutions do not make any rational sense. Some people considers resolution to be nothing more than an excuse to keep doing it and then giving oneself a cut off date which in most cases doesn't even stick. A new year’s resolution can be something that you can think of on a random Wednesday so why couldn't you have started it on that Wednesday. So basically whatever you can do to better yourself whenever you think of it, matters the most.

I agree with the people who say “why wait till New Year Eve” but at the same time, it’s the reflection on you that prompts the internal change. For some that happens over summer vacation; for others, over their winter break, or at the end of the official year. I don’t think they should be looked down on for “waiting” till January, but celebrated for making the change in their lives that will make them happier, healthier and a better person.

While perfectly logical, that analysis of “why not do that now” misses a very crucial point. New Year's resolutions help people cope with some of the most difficult conflicts human beings face. So argues one of the economics profession's greatest experts on conflict, Thomas C. Schelling, who shared 2005's Nobel in economic science for, in the words of the citation, "having enhanced our understanding of conflict and cooperation through game-theory analysis."

The problem, he suggested, is that pretty much everybody suffers from a split personality. One self desperately wants to lose weight or quit smoking or run two miles a day or get up early to work. The other wants dessert or a cigarette, hates exercise or loves sleep. Both selves are equally valid, and equally rational about pursuing their desires. However, they do not exist at the same time.

New Year's resolutions help the earlier self overrule the later one by raising the cost of straying. "More is threatened by failure than just the substance of the resolution: one's personal constitution is violated, confidence demoralized, and the whole year spoiled. At least one can try to make it so," wrote Professor Schelling in ‘The Intimate Contest for Self-Command’, an essay in his book "Choice and Consequence: Perspectives of an Errant Economist”

In the back of our minds we all hope that the coming year will be better than the one we leave behind. Truth is, in most cases we are the masters of our destiny. The other telling truth is that in most cases - we fail dismally when it comes to New Year's Resolutions. Sure - come that first day of January - you'll see people everywhere brandishing their pristine new season joggers, a boot camp mentality, and a steely determination.

As admirable as that is - you can be pretty sure that once the reality of the work-a-day world kicks in again - we start to make mental notes to self like - "Will start again Monday". Before we know it - it's Holi – then birthdays, work and family functions engulf and we start saying things like "Gosh (or Shit!)- this year has just flown." So, the central idea of this argument of mine is that one should never find himself/herself trapped in the “could have” dialogues rather one should be in a position to say, “I did that”

Now I already know I typed something about the New Year resolution concept, I forgot to miss my resolutions. Well, I don’t want to share most of them as I want to keep it with myself and evaluate myself on the parameters set by myself after all this is the sole purpose of resolutions i.e. to judge yourself. However, one of them I want to share here because I think that it’s going to be a difficult one and hence the chances of me getting deviated from it are pretty high. I’m sharing it so that all the readers can act as the invigilators for my course of action. The resolution is to serve my society in a better way than how I did last year.

Well, once in a blog I mentioned one thing that I did something good (which was questionable that time) during summers. Actually during my Chennai visit, I met a 12-14 year old girl begging in the train on the name of her studies’ expenses and all. I tried to seek the details from her and when she told me that she is struggling with her academic expenses due to the illness of her mother, I denied that argument from the root and asked her to take me to her school. To my pleasant (yes, it was pleasant) surprise, whatever she said was true. So, I paid for her fees in the school and also deposited the security money with the newspaper hawker so that she can sell newspapers from the next day and can earn something for her livelihood.

Then, I almost forgot that incident. However when I was at my home on Diwali, I got a call from her (I gave her my visiting card and asked her to call me if god forbid, she fall pray to similar circumstances again) saying that she has started selling vegetables and fruits and passed on the newspaper thing to other girl in her neighborhood. Moreover, she had passed in the quarterly exams and was pretty hopeful to clear the final exams. I didn’t know what to say; I could utter only few words, like “Good”, “Best of Luck” and “Happy Diwali”

What I did that time was from what I earned as stipend during my summers; so now you can understand as how important it has become for me to keep that work on track. Not only this, but also my contribution has to grow up proportionately after all I’m going to start earning from this year. Well, unlike most of the people, I won’t say that it was a moment of truth or something for me neither I’ll compare that moment with any of my CAT or GATE result memories but I would definitely say one thing that this incident accidentally made me more sensible and more responsible. Hmmm, that’s something now what I call Serendipity :)

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous new year!