Forget the usual New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, exercise more and quit bad habits.
Those may all be worthwhile personal goals, but in the larger scheme of what’s important, what do such resolutions actually solve?
To make a resolution is about setting a course of action to settle a dispute or find a solution to a problem. Aren’t there bigger issues for us all to address in the coming decade?
For starters, we’ll suggest some work on civility.
Online conversations — especially on platforms like Twitter — would be much more pleasant if we resolved to refrain from name-calling or personal attacks and kept our discourse to explaining our own views and asking questions designed to help understand the views of others.
Such an approach might help those as near as feuding families and as distant as social media contacts to consider new perspectives and reach middle ground on matters that divide us, both petty and portentous.
Imagine if deference and respect carried over to our behavior as motorists. No more road rage and fewer backups as lanes are narrowed through construction sites and past traffic accidents.
Compassion, likewise, often appears to be in short supply and in need of replenishing in 2020 and beyond.
Exercising more empathy may be as simple as asking acquaintances how they are doing and really listening to their response. We may not be in a position to fix what ails them, but sometimes just being heard is good medicine.
Better understanding the plight of others can also help to put one’s own concerns in a new light and maybe even motivate us to give our time, talents and treasure to a good cause.
Among many quotations worth remembering on the value of giving is this one from Mahatma Gandhi: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”
To civility and compassion, we’ll add contemplation as a worthy topic for a New Year’s resolution.
By this, we mean resisting the urge to make snap judgments and taking time to learn more about challenges facing our community, state and the nation. What are the problems that keep our neighbors up at night, that threaten our communities or jeopardize our country’s future?
Whatever the concerns — public education, safety, technology, health care or the economy, just to note a few — do we know enough about what is going right and what needs to be fixed to make informed decisions as voters in coming months?
Politicians will seek our attention in this election year at multiple levels — some running for county offices, others vying for state and federal legislative seats and a few who want to be president. At a time when social media channels and our preferred information sources feed us what they think we want to hear, it has never been more important to be willing to tap new outlets for a deeper understanding of all sides to major issues.
In the year and decade now beginning, a little more civility, compassion and contemplation may be just the antidotes to inoculate ourselves from the vitriol and viciousness that can clearly be predicted, given the buildup we’ve already seen to this election year.
Focusing more on respect, caring for others and understanding common problems may also be a good path to our own better health.