After 4,000 years of trying to come up with New Year’s Resolutions, we still can’t get them right.
According to a recent poll by the University of Bristol, our collective resolutions have a 88% fail rate, a bleak statistic which raises the question of whether people are changeable or not. Making resolutions implies that we have control over what happens to us, and that as humans we have the power to take our lives back into our own hands.Yet the numbers would suggest we’re either not terribly good at it, or else our true nature is not entirely in our control. Is it a problem of will power, or free will?
Perhaps the majority of resolutions fail because they center on too many specific goals and too few big ideas. Instead of the why, we tend to focus on the what. Enter Nietzsche, who in 1882 penned the following New Year’s Resolution in his philosophical novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
“To-day everyone takes the liberty of expressing his wish and his favorite thought: well, I also mean to tell what I have wished for myself today, and what thought first crossed my mind this year,—a thought which ought to be the basis, the pledge and the sweetening of all my future life! I want more and more to perceive the necessary characters in things as the beautiful:—I shall thus be one of those who beautify things. Amor fati: let that henceforth be my love! I do not want to wage war with the ugly. I do not want to accuse, I do not want even to accuse the accusers. Looking aside, let that be my sole negation! And all in all, to sum up: I wish to be at any time hereafter only a yea-sayer!”
Rather than reinventing his daily routine or his diet or his exercise regimen, Nietzsche chooses to change the way he looks at the world. Instead of dwelling in the negative, he accepts it and transforms it into something positive. He chooses to see beauty in everything—even (and particularly) in things that aren’t beautiful.
Share your own resolutions below!