The New Years Holiday is celebrated much differently between Judaism and the West’s celebratory day. My memories of watching people celebrate New Year’s Eve when I grew up in the West were:
2) Drinking (getting drunk or tipsy)
3) Toasting at midnight
4) Making New Years Resolutions
January 1st is not what G-d has proclaimed to be the start of the New year. The New Year is ‘Rosh Hashana’ which usually falls in September on the Gregorian calendar, and is filled with prayers, praises to G-d, festive meals, and blessings for a better year for all of creation. It is then culminated with Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which brings us (during the ten days) to apologize for past sins, make amends where able, and otherwise do deep introspection with resolutions to do better in the next year.
Yet, acknowledging that many Gentiles observe January 1st as the new year, I wish to offer some words of advice to help make this celebration of yours more meaningful and constructive .
From the list I gave above, numbers 1 and 3 are nice. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating by going to a friend’s home for a party, in what you consider the new year.
Making a toast is also a nice gesture, as long as the toast is a positive one. It’s numbers 2 and 4 where problems arise.
My mother would not even let me out on Dec. 31 from the fear of drunk drivers. But we all know about the DUI problem around the world. It’s the ‘New Year’s resolution’ attempts I’d like to address in this piece.
I know how many times I myself have had said I was going to be a ‘better person’ this next year, and then, the year went by, and I didn’t improve much. The problem I had, which many of us place amongst ourselves is that we make resolutions that are too general or too steep for us to climb.
Below is a list of ideas to help make changes in our lives, that much more successful:
1) Make a List. What thing/s would you like to change about yourself.
2) Eliminate unrealistic goals. For instance, “I want to be a millionaire by the end of the year", or "I want to be a perfect parent, student, teacher, etc." and instead concentrate on how you can become better at it. Work TOWARDS being a better person, parent, co-worker, sibling, servant of G-d, etc….
3) Break your goals down to manageable steps. For instance, if it is to lose weight, commit to shedding those pounds by resolving to join a gym or a weight loss group before the month is over, or even just choose to eliminate one bad eating habit, etc.. (Please cheer me on in this as well, (grin)) If your goal is to be more of a loving and patient parent or co-worker, then break that goal down into stating, “Whenever I get upset, I will silently repeat in my head, “Thank you G-d, for giving me this opportunity to work on my character defect of impatience or… (fill in the blank)."
4) Have tools ready for yourself. If you are impatient and want to work on that characteristic, have tools you can use ready for the moment. Count to ten or clench your fists and then make a joke out of the issue, or remember a situation where you also failed and give the other person the benefit of the doubt, even though it is your nature not to do so. There are many tools we should have at our disposal for emergency on the scene use. Tools are essential to succeed. Write these tools down and post them somewhere you will see them, as when you are angry or impatient, one can't remember or concentrate on what to do. Tools need to be accessible!
5) Find alternatives. Do you wish to quit a bad habit like smoking, but you smoke to relax yourself? Then find another form of relaxation that’s available to you, or find a less dangerous substitute.
6) Pray to G-d. Pray that G-d helps you in your efforts to become a better person. Speak to G-d and tell Him that you are trying to do this to better serve Him, to make this world a better place one person at a time, and that you need His help.
I have found that these tools have helped me achieve my goals more successfully. Yes, it means sometimes taking smaller steps which may not make news headlines, but these baby steps move me forward to where I want to go in really succeeding in improving myself. It’s a lot better than making big toasts and big, almost impossible goals to keep.
Perhaps some of our readers have their own personal stories, tools, or ideas that helped them improve their own character defects. I think we would all benefit from hearing them.
L”chaim! To Life!