Happy 2020, folks!
Here we are, a week into the new year.
Twenty-twenty (20/20) vision describes normal visual acuity according to the Snellan visual acuity system that Dutch ophthalmologist Herman Snellan invented in the 19th century. Someone with 20/20 vision can sharply and clearly see twenty feet away what should be seen twenty feet away. Dr A. Tim Johnson estimates that only around 35% of adults have 20/20 vision (of which I am not one).
20/20 vision is often upheld as perfect vision, but vision skills are defined by more than visual acuity. Other factors include peripheral awareness, depth, perception, and ability to focus.
One element that no human vision cannot perceive is the future. As the idiom goes, “hindsight is 20/20” – we can only understand what has passed.
A new year is a common time for goal-setting – hopes for a future unseen but full of promise. They can range from greater involvement with their families to eating more healthily to earning more money in their work. None are wrong, but unfortunately few are accomplished. According to study at the University of Scranton in the 1980s, 77% of people stick to their resolutions for a week, while only 8% achieve them by the year’s end.
New Year’s resolutions have garnered bad rap, whether for their arbitrary and sometimes untimely creation (Why January 1? Who has the motivation to exercise in the winter? or start dieting with all the holiday goodies around?), their unrealistic expectations (Running a marathon with five months of training from scratch…?), or what have you. Some have sworn them off in favor of making resolutions year-round, not just on some “random” day.
I agree that resolutions should not be reserved for January 1. As Wesley Baines, a Regent University graduate, puts it: “If you notice that your pile of debt is beginning to get out of control around mid-year, make a July resolution.” We don’t have to wait for the new year to change our actions. Nevertheless, resolutions set on New Year’s do have value.
The new year is an opportunity to reflect on the last 365 (or 366) days and examine what you have and have not done – the accomplishments you’re proud of, the opportunities you missed, the goals you didn’t achieve. It’s a natural stopping and starting point. Did you use the most of the past year?
Life is about progression. Clinical psychological John Duffy explains that “[m]ost of us have a natural bent toward self-improvement” and that January 1 “gives us time and a goal date to prepare for the change.” A year without personal evolution feels like a wasted year, and a New Year’s resolution theoretically insulates against such “failure.”
New Year’s resolutions work as a metric of progress, given that you haven’t set your course for the stars when the ladder you’re climbing can only go to the roof of your house. Broad and vague resolutions without set plans for achievement don’t go further than week two or three of January; huge houses of straw don’t stand like the small houses of brick when the big bad wolf known as “life happens” joins the neighborhood.
As a college student, breaking major projects into a series of steps helps keep my motivation up. Instead of staring at the single “English literary analysis” in my homework calendar, I create small assignments with certain due dates leading up to the deadline for the project: On this day finish finding materials, and on this day finish the outline, etc. I check items off the project breakdown list, and before I know it I’m done.
The same thinking applies to New Year’s resolutions. At the end of 2020 what do you want to say that you’ve done? Take that and break it into pieces. If you want to save money in 2020, start by learning to budget. If you want to lose weight, start by walking just five minutes a few times a week or by using a smaller plate at meals. Rather than launching at breakneck speed into the thousand miles at the outset, start by walking just one.