One of the driving forces for many people at New Year’s is the need to self-improve. Not just self-reflect, but also to fix the stuff we’re not so happy about. It’s an incredibly pervasive urge, all wrapped up in the New Years Resolution. I’ve set new years resolutions every year for … well forever. Where does this urge to constantly self-improve come from?
I think some of it lies in the DNA of every Canadian. Most of us descend from people who set out for a New World, an improved world. It’s at the heart of the American Dream and the Canadian Constitution … this idea that it can always, and should always, be better. And now it flourishes as an entire department in the bookstore … titled “Self-Improvement” or “Self-Help”. And it’s in full bloom with the thousands of blogs being written (including my own) online, everyday.
But is this always a good thing? How can people trying to improve their lives be bad? This obsession with better is what has made the North American continent what it is today. It has led to tremendous success in business, science, education, the arts, sport and medicine.
But, where does it end? When is good ever good enough? Apparently, not yet.
And so we always feel just a tiny bit inadequate. Especially women. You might be a super-successful entrepreneur, but do you have a flat stomach? You may be very fit, but are you reading the “right” books? You might be a wonderful parent, but did you max out your RSP this year? Is your home, marriage or family blissfully happy, every minute of every day? If not, you fail. Or at least you feel like you do.
Now a strong argument could be made that this is what life is all about … striving to improve. But it’s exhausting. And I’m tired. And so for 2012, I’ve decided to take a new path. Rather than a “resolution”, I’ve decided that I’m simply going to “pursue an interest”. Rather than set a weight-loss goal, I could just enjoy running, which I do. Rather than have a perfectly organized home, I could take up scrapbooking again, and enjoy it for what it is. Rather than trying to have it all, I could just focus on enjoying what I already have, more.
What would happen? If I stopped trying to self-improve, would it be so bad? I doubt it … and I strongly suspect I’d be far more content. And I’ll save a fortune on books!