Do you have any New Year’s resolutions?


​My eldest son was about 3-4 years old and very concerned with the coming of the “New Year,” that all the grown-ups around him were speaking about. I tried to explain about months and years, took out calendars, and showed him. Early on January 1st, he determinedly opened the front door, stepped out on the porch, had a good look in all directions, and declared: “I cannot see any differences – everything looks the same.” And, of course, it did.

The “New Year” is a human-made division of time. We use this “new start” to suddenly become better people. We will lose weight, start exercising, stop smoking and wine-drinking, post to LinkedIn everyday, and issue a weekly newsletter. We have private or professional New Year’s Resolutions.

I would love to hear about New Year’s Resolutions that worked. Mostly, I have heard and experienced that they don’t; Changing habits radically, from one day to the next, demands an enormous amount of willpower.

More often than not, New Year’s Resolutions crash and burn after some days or perhaps weeks. Life gets in the way. “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, as we know. New Year’s Resolutions are heroic deeds, and no one falls as far and hard as heroes do. Then, we beat ourselves up, and the voice in our heads tells us we are failures who cannot manage anything. So we might as well stop trying.

I created this vector illustration some years ago because the Chinese proverb gave me a serious aha moment. Yes, the best time to plant a tree was definitely 20 years ago. If you had planted a tree back then, you would have had a tree today. There isn’t much you can do about that, and a totally understandable reaction is to sigh heavily in despair and give up every thought about trees.

But then the proverb resumes: “The second best time is NOW.” – Very well, you may say, is there really any comfort in planting a tree now and spending the next 20 years waiting for it to grow?

No. And that’s not the big point of the proverb either, as I suddenly saw it. The comfort is in the fact that even if you neglected to do something or did something wrong 20 years ago, it is ONLY NOW that you can do something right. Between your NOW and the neglected thing, there are twenty years of passed time with which you can do absolutely nothing! But you can do something NOW.

NOW does not have to be January 1st. Now is everyday – a new. Now is all we truly have when you come to think about it. If you waste your NOW beating yourself up because you failed your New Year’s Resolution yesterday, you ruin your NOW, your yesterday, and probably your tomorrow.

Listening to myself right now, it sounds like I am a total expert on this; this is haaardly the case. I am very good at beating myself up. That is why I stay away from New Year’s Resolutions and, instead, try course-correcting according to the proverb, thinking that the (second) best and only time is now.

To remind myself of this, I had these Chinese words of wisdom printed on a coffee mug, which is almost always beside me.

Do you have a proverb or a quote that means much to you? Can you use a proverb to illustrate the value of your work? Vector illustrations are great companions to proverbs, quotes, or your own words of wisdom. They are also great for all kinds of illustrations, book- covers, social media graphics, or ads. And for coffee mugs 🙂 I publish vector illustrations on LinkedIn under #vectorwitch. Check them out and be inspired. I would love to make some for you, as well.

Happy New Year,